Fall though exposed floor opening during poorly managed plumbing works
Doncaster Borough Council has been prosecuted for neglecting safety precautions after an 82-year-old vulnerable woman was injured in a fall at one of their care homes. The woman suffered cuts and bruises when she fell some 2m into an unguarded open sewage drain at Oldfield House care home in Stainforth on 29 March 2012.
Magistrates in Doncaster heard that a recently-qualified apprentice plumber was on site clearing a blockage in a live sewage drain via a manhole just outside a fire door at the end of a corridor. He left the open hole exposed and the fire door open whilst he went back into the building to fetch water to flush the blockage.
The elderly resident walked down the corridor and inadvertently through the open fire door and stumbled into the open hole. She needed an overnight stay in hospital and treatment for minor cuts and bruising.
HSE told the court simple preventive measures could have included temporary barriers around the hole, asking someone to keep watch on the open grate, or merely placing the cover back on the drain temporarily, and closing the fire door.
Workman not trained in safe procedures nor supplied with barriers
Doncaster Borough Council, of Council House, College Road, Doncaster, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £2,040 in costs after admitting breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the case, HSE Inspector Tim Johnson said:
“This is a residential care home that will be, by its very nature, occupied by vulnerable and possibly easily-confused elderly people. It is, therefore, particularly important that proper planning and the greatest vigilance are duly accorded.
It is fortunate this lady sustained only minor bruising but she was evidently badly distressed and did need an overnight stay in hospital.
Doncaster’s risk assessment had outlined preventative measures to be taken but failed to follow that through. The inexperienced plumber was sent on his own, had not been trained in safe procedures and was not supplied with barriers – a failing that has since been rectified.
All employers must make sure they provide the necessary equipment and train their employees to carry out work in a safe manner. However short the duration of a job, they must take into account the risks presented by the environment they are working in.”