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Elderly woman died after suffering burns in nursing home bath

Date:
25 September 2014

A nursing home in Deeside has been fined for breaching safety laws after an 88-year-old resident suffered nine per cent burns to her body when she was lowered into a bath of scalding hot water. 

Beatrice ‘Betty’ Morgan, a resident at Greencroft Nursing Home in Aston, Queensferry, died of complications caused by her injuries a month after the incident, on 29 August 2012. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and today (25 September) prosecuted the home’s owner, Greencroft Care Ltd, which is now in liquidation, at Mold Magistrates’ Court. 

The court heard that Miss Morgan, who was unable to walk, was lowered into the bath using a hoist and immediately cried out when she touched the water. Although she was quickly raised from the bath, she suffered nine per cent burns and was taken to Whiston Burns Unit where she later died. 

HSE’s investigations found that the temperature of the hot water was not properly controlled to prevent it exceeding 44 degrees Celsius. Although mixing valves had been fitted to control the temperature they had not been maintained and were not of the right standard required in nursing homes. 

Although staff had been instructed to check water temperature with a thermometer before baths, no checks were made by management to ensure this was happening. There had been a failure by the company to fully assess risks involving use of hot water and to provide sufficient training, instruction and supervision to staff. 

Safety regulations require a Type 3 thermostatic mixing valve to be fitted to hot taps when bathing vulnerable people and these should be regularly maintained. 

Greencroft Care Ltd of Larch Avenue, Aston, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £5,000. The judge at the hearing said if the firm had not been in liquidation, he would have sent the case to crown court, where the fine would have been at least £100,000. 

HSE Inspector Katharine Walker, speaking after the hearing, said: “This tragic incident could easily have been avoided if Greencroft had observed the readily available guidance on bathing vulnerable people. The company fell well short of the desired standards. 

“Miss Morgan suffered a great deal of unnecessary pain before her death. Nursing homes and other organisations caring for vulnerable people must make sure they fit and maintain the right kind of mixer on hot bath taps and properly supervise their staff.”  

Further information on safe bathing in care homes can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/healthservices/scalding-burning.htm 

Notes to Editors 

1.         The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It   does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authorit partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk 

2.         Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: “Employers should conduct their undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in their employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.” 

3.         HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.

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