In Court – December 2014

In Court: Care Home Fined after Window Death
A care home has been fined £196,000 following the death of an elderly resident who fell to her death from a bedroom window. The resident had been able to overcome a restrictor device and open the bedroom window, which had a low window sill height, and fell to her death from the first floor. The investigation found that all the windows in the care home were fitted with unsuitable window restrictors that could easily be overridden.

The care home was fined £96,000 and order to pay £100,000 in costs. Speaking after the case, the prosecuting HSE inspector said “This tragic incident could easily have been avoided.. The care home had been open for more than two years and although window restrictors were fitted, they were unsuitable because they could be easily over-ridden.” The windows did not meet the current standards, which specify that the restrictor must not allow the window to open more than 100mm, that it should be of robust construction and that it should require a specialist tool or key in order to disable the restrictor.

Violent Robberies Lead to Health and Safety Prosecution
A newsagent chain has been prosecuted following a string of violent robberies for failing to protect its staff from the risk of harm. The local authority brought the case to court after six robberies took place between mid 2011 and early 2012, all involving weapons and some involving assaults on shop staff.

The company pled guilty to six charges of breaching their duty of care to staff and was fined £150,000, plus £78,000 in costs. Speaking after the case, a councillor commented that “This case sends a clear message that it is vital for employers to assess the risks of workplace violence and put reasonable control measures in place to protect both their customers and employees.”

Employee Burned by Vat of Chemicals
A fabric company has been prosecuted after an employee fell into a vat of bleach whilst trying to free some cloth which was stuck in the mangle rollers. He suffered severe chemical burns over most of his body when he fell into the open vat of bleach.

The investigation by the HSE found that staff had not had any training for using the bleaching equipment and the company had not carried out any risk assessments for using the equipment. It was common practice for employees to climb onto the open containers when the machinery became stuck. The company, which has now put proper procedures in place, was fined £10,000 plus £718 in costs after pleading guilty to one breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Lift Door Defect Leads to Fall
A company has been fined £3,000 following an incident where an employee fell into a lift shaft and was seriously injured. The employee was delivering a cage trolley at the time, but found that the upper floor doors to the table lift were open even though the lift was not there. When he looked into the shaft to see if the lift was at the floor below he lost his balance and fell into the lift shaft. The cage trolley followed and landed on him, causing serious injuries and trapping him until he was freed by colleagues.

The investigation found that no suitable risk assessment was in place, which would have identified that the lift doors could be opened when the lift was not present. The lift was being serviced and examined regularly, but the contractor had failed to notice the issue.

Speaking after the case, an HSE inspector said “It would have been reasonably practicable for the company to have installed inter-locks and platform positioning sensors, as they did later. Such devices are considered as a standard requirement in lift installations throughout residential, industrial and commercial buildings, and their omission in this case was a critical factor in the cause of this incident. The fact that the company did install such devices afterwards shows that this was a reasonably practicable measure which they could have taken, had they done so [the employee] would not have suffered such serious injuries.”