Worcestershire care home fined after investigation into fatal fall from window

A vulnerable 92-year-old woman died after falling from a first floor window in a Worcestershire care home, a court heard.

Thora Monk died after falling more than 4m from her bedroom window at The Lawns Nursing Home in Kempsey on 5 January 2007. The home is operated by Heritage Manor Ltd, which manages retirement and nursing homes across the UK.

During the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution of Heritage Manor Ltd, Worcester Magistrates’ Court heard the window in the frail woman’s bedroom could be opened fully.

Police attending the incident at the time found that other windows could also be opened fully and were accessible to elderly residents. Published HSE guidance recommends that windows, through which there is a risk of a person falling if opened, should be restricted so they open no more than 100mm.

The court heard that Heritage Manor Ltd had failed to maintain its method of restricting the opening of the windows adequately, thus putting residents at risk.

Heritage Manor Ltd, of Coach House, The Lawns, Kempsey, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The company was fined £16,500 and ordered to pay £25,000 towards costs.

HSE investigating inspector Claire Coleman said:

“The risk of vulnerable people falling from windows is a well known issue in nursing homes.

“Adequate controls are easy to implement and maintain, and advice is available from HSE. For example, the fitting of chain restrictors that physically prevent windows from opening further than 100mm is a straightforward and inexpensive method of protecting people who are dependent upon others for their safety. “Care providers are urged to revisit their risk assessment to ensure that they have adequate measures in place and that these are being suitably maintained.”

 http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2010/coi-wm-29010.htm