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11th October 2016

Health & Safety – Care home owners fined

Care home owners fined £380k following fire

Care Home owners Shaftesbury Care Group Ltd have been sentenced following five breaches of fire safety regulations at Donwell House Care Home in Washington.

The fire destroyed a bedroom, damaged a corridor and caused severe smoke damage to other bedrooms and a laundry room.

The court heard how the bedroom door of an elderly resident’s room was wedged open. As a result, smoke and heat quickly filled the communal corridor and travelled into a neighbouring bedroom which also had its door wedged open.

There was a delay in identifying the room where the fire had started, and an elderly lady became trapped in her bedroom. Staff were unable to evacuate her from the building due to the amount of smoke and heat in the corridor. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the building through a first floor window and successfully rescued the lady. She was then taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead, for treatment.

Failings uncovered by Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service included:

  • Fire doors had been wedged open when they should have been closed;
  • Just under half of the building’s fire extinguishers had been condemned by the company’s appointed contractor; and
  • The company failed to carry out a number of actions identified in a fire risk assessment, including installing electronic devices that would have allowed fire doors to be held open whilst enabling them to be quickly closed in an emergency.

Shaftesbury Care Group Ltd was fined  £380,000 with costs of £29,222 at Newcastle Crown Court, after the company admitted five serious fire safety failings at a hearing the previous month.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Community Safety Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The breaches found at this care home put the lives of residents and staff at risk.”

“We have around five thousand interactions with businesses annually, where we work to educate and inform them of their responsibilities to comply with the law. This means that there is seldom the need for prosecution. However, where lives are put at risk and the law has been broken we will not hesitate to prosecute.”

“This fine imposed by the judge is one of the most significant we are aware of for a case of this kind. It should serve as a warning to businesses, and especially care home operators, that failure to carry out their responsibilities regarding fire safety can and will have serious consequences.”

Is your workplace fire safe?
  • Do you have a current Fire Risk Assessment completed by a qualified competent person?
  • Are your fire safety work practices current and appropriate for the levels of risk?
  • Do your staff comply with current procedures and safe working practices for fire evacuation?

If you don’t know the answer to those questions, then a health and safety audit is your next step.

We can send one of our qualified health and safety auditors to your premises to conduct a thorough audit of your working procedures.

Following a full survey of your business, we will provide you with a written report and proposed package together with a competitive price for our services.

For more information on how we can help, please contact Clare Lynch.

11th October 2016