A care home operator has been ordered to pay £85,000 in fines over the avoidable death of a resident with dementia.
Life Style Care PLC, of Regent House, Theobald Street, Elstree and Borehamwood in Hertfordshire, was also told to pay a further £48,000 in costs after admitting a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The company runs the Chase Care Home in printers Avenue, Watford, where the incident happened on December 23, 2011.
Woman suffocated by wardrobe
Claire Hughes, a resident with clinical dementia, died from compression asphyxia after she was suffocated by a wardrobe that had not been securely attached to the wall.
The 64-year-old was obsessed with clothing and wearing too many layers as a result of her specific form of dementia. Care home staff were aware of her condition and locked the wardrobe in her room to prevent her from accessing the clothes inside.
St Alban’s Crown Court was told that on the morning of December 23 Mrs Hughes tried to open the door of the wardrobe while she was alone in her room. At some point the wardrobe fell on top of her, which left her unable to breathe.
Staff called the emergency services as soon as they found Mrs Hughes but she was pronounced dead the scene.
HSE finds serious safety failings
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and found that the screws used to attach the wardrobe to the wall did not penetrate into the building’s blockwork, which meant that the wardrobe could easily be pulled over.
The HSE found that the care home failed to make sure the screws and fixings were of a suitable standard despite knowing of Mrs Hughes’ obsession with clothes.
It had also failed to provide the maintenance manager with information or training on how to attach the wardrobe to the wall.
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Source: Daily Mail