A Llangollen, Wales nursing home has been fined following the suffocation of an elderly woman after she become trapped between her mattress and bed rails intended to stop her falling.
Elizabeth Roberts, 89, was found suffocated in her room at the Headlands Nursing Home in August of 2008. Her upper body had slid down to the floor between the bed mattresses and bed rails where she had become trapped. (WCxKit)
Mold Crown Court heard Roberts had suffered from a previous entrapment incident three weeks before but no alternative bedding arrangements had been made.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed care staff at the home engaged bedside rails after Roberts repeatedly fell from her bed, however employees had not been provided with up-to-date training on the safe use of bed rails, in particular the risk of entrapment created by beds. HSE found the home also failed to complete a suitable and sufficient risk assessment on the use of bed rails for Roberts, which should have identified that they may have been unsuitable in her case. There was no company policy on the safe use of bed rails and no system for routine inspection, monitoring and maintenance. (WCxKit)
Deevale Homecare and Services Ltd of Grosvenor Road, Wrexham, who own and operate the Headlands Nursing Home in Llangollen, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and Regulation 3 (1) Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
They were sentenced at Mold Crown Court and fined $114,525.6, with $3,569,691.02 in costs.
This could easily become a products liability case against the bed manufacturer. Ask first, could the hazard have been designed out of the product? Why wasn't the product recalled and retrofitted with safer rails or guarding system? A warning clearly would not have been sufficent given users of a hospital bed are frequently ill and infirm thus cannot be read warning labels. On discovery for a suit against the manufacturer, find out how many prior injuries (near misses) there have been on this product.
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact:Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.
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