£30,000 fine for care home death

Two companies have been sentenced by the Health & Safety Executive following the death of an elderly resident at a care home in Manchester after she was crushed by a heavy fire door.

Irene Sharples, 92, was a resident at Alexian Brothers Care Centre on St Mary's Road in Moston when the door fell on her during renovation work. She died four weeks later as a result of her injuries.

The Healthcare Management Trust, which runs the care home, and construction firm Rothwell Robinson were both prosecuted by the HSE after an investigation found Sharples, who suffered from dementia, had been able to wander into a building site at the home.

Healthcare Management Trust had hired Rothwell Robinson to convert a ground floor bedroom and en-suite into two toilets and a store room.

The company began the work on 2 November 2010 and several tradesmen, including two joiners and a plumber, visited the site over the following days.

At around 7.30am on 7 November, staff at the care home heard a loud thud and a cry for help. When they went to investigate, they found Sharples on the floor inside the former ground floor bedroom with a fire door on top of her. Sharples suffered a broken hip spent eight days in hospital but her condition deteriorated when she returned to the care home and she died on 2 December 2010.

The HSE investigation found the healthcare firm and building company had both failed to make sure the room was locked at the end of each day and also when it was left unoccupied.

The fire door had been removed from the en-suite during the building work and leant against the wardrobes. Several other hazards were also spotted by the care home staff including loose skirting boards, exposed wiring, broken glass and rusty nails.

The Healthcare Management Trust, of Queen Anne's Gate in London, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £7,500 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Rothwell Robinson, of Holyoake Road in Worsley, was fined £10,000 with costs of £7,500 after pleading guilty to the same offence.

Laura Moran, HSE inspector said: "Both firms clearly knew there were vulnerable residents living at the care home but they still allowed the door to what was essentially a building site to be left unlocked on numerous occasions.

"Sadly, Mrs Sharples was severely injured when she wandered into the room, presumably looking for her friend, and ultimately lost her life because of the failings of the Healthcare Management Trust and Rothwell Robinson."

A spokesman for Healthcare Management Trust said: "We accept that there were failings in the way we prepared for the work at the home and that these contributed to the tragic death of Ms Irene Sharples. That is why we pleaded guilty at the first opportunity we had to do so.

"Whilst nothing like this has ever happened before at one of our homes, we took immediate and decisive action to make sure that it does not happen again.

"We worked closely with the authorities throughout their investigations into what happened because we always put the safety and well-being of our residents first.

"We are grateful to the family of Mrs Sharples for putting on record their satisfaction with the home and our response following the incident. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure none of our residents or their families have to go through similar distress."

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