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January 13, 2009

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Council fined after pensioner dies in fall from ambulance

An elderly woman died after falling out of an ambulance while sitting in a defective wheelchair.

Stafford Crown Court heard that a 90-year-old woman was waiting to be driven home by ambulance from a day centre, when the accident occurred on 28 June 2007.

When the ambulance arrived at Wombourne Day Centre the woman was loaded inside, while sat in a wheelchair, and positioned towards the back of the vehicle. The wheelchair was missing both foot rests and when the pensioner tried to reposition herself, the chair moved backwards, causing it to tip and throw her out of the open back doors of the ambulance and on to the ground below. As a result, she received internal injuries and died in hospital three days later.

An investigation by the HSE revealed that the brakes on the wheelchair were defective and the executive consequently brought charges against Staffordshire County Council, which was responsible for operating the ambulance.

Pleading guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974, for failing to protect those not in its employment, the council was fined £83,000 and ordered to pay £21,000 costs, on 12 December 2008.

In mitigation, the council said that it deeply regretted the incident and has since carried out full maintenance checks on all of its wheelchairs, and replaced any that failed the inspection. It has also introduced a monitoring policy to ensure that regular checks are carried out on the wheelchairs.

HSE inspector, Ian Williamson, told SHP: “This accident could have been avoided and was a direct result of a lack of maintenance and ensuring that the equipment was safe to use.

“The legal duty of care is firmly vested in all employers to plan, organise, monitor and review procedures for checking equipment. A suitable risk assessment or a schedule of routine checks should have identified and led to the correction of any defects.”

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.

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