The first case involved the prosecution of Renfrewshire Council after an elderly tenant, 77 year old Margaret O’Donnell, fell four feet through an access hole which had been left uncovered by workers in her hallway on 3 February 2010, causing her to sustain a fracture in her upper arm and an undisplaced crack in her thigh bone.
Council workers had been installing a new boiler in Mrs O’Donnell’s home which required them to cut through floorboards in front of the property to access pipes and cables. On the day of the incident, she was told to stay in her living room as the boards were lifted. However, after cutting through the boards outside the living room door, the worker left to attend to another task without covering the hole.
The subsequent HSE investigation found that Renfrewshire Council failed to take appropriate measures to prevent people from falling through openings in the floor, and to ensure employees were provided with covers or were aware of the importance of using them. Renfrewshire Council pleaded guilty to breach of s.3(1) HSWA (failure to ensure the health and safety of others) and was fined £20,000.
The second case involved a care home in Manchester run by a private company – The Healthcare Management Trust. An elderly resident, Irene Sharples who was aged 92, sustained fatal injuries when a heavy fire door at the Alexian Brothers Care Centre fell on her during renovation works.
Together with the company that ran the care home, the construction firm, Rothwell Robinson Ltd, was prosecuted after the HSE’s investigation found that the area was not properly secured and that Mrs Sharples, who suffered from dementia, was able to simply wander into the building site. The court was told that Mrs Sharples had known a resident who used to live in the room where the works were being undertaken and would often walk into that room when she moved around the home. Three people were required to lift the door off Mrs Sharples who sustained a broken hip. However her condition subsequently deteriorated and she later died as a result of her injuries.
Both companies were charged with breach of s.3(1) HSWA and pleaded guilty. The Healthcare Management Trust and Rothwell Robinson Ltd were fined £20,000 and £10,000 respectively. Both were also ordered to pay costs of £7,500 in addition.