A national care home provider and one of its employees have been prosecuted after a young woman suffered full thickness burns to more than 40% of her body from a scalding bath.
The incident occurred at a care home in Bathgate, and left 32-year-old Nicola Jones requiring major surgery, including amputation of all her toes. She was also left without any flesh on her ankles. She now has to use a wheelchair and faces more corrective surgery.
Livingston Sheriff Court heard that one of the care support workers failed to check the temperature of the water before Nicola got in the bath.
Although the immersion heater’s thermostat failed causing the scalding water in the taps, it was the failure by the worker to check the temperature of the water that was the direct cause of Nicola’s injuries. Colleagues who immediately came to assist claimed they ‘could feel the heat coming from the bathroom’ and suggested it must have been obvious to the care worker that the water was scalding.
The court also heard staff members were supposed to check the water temperature before the service user bathed and fill out a record of this check. However written instructions confirming this were not provided by the company.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found no risk assessment was in place for the risk of exposure to scalding water and the thermometers provided in the home were inadequate.
The care worker pleaded guilty to breaching section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974 and was served with a community payback order to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work over the next 10 months.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974 and was fined £20,000.
“The injuries sustained by Nicola Jones were easily preventable by the simple act of checking the water temperature before she entered,” commented HSE Inspector Hazel Dobb. “Employers should ensure that their staff are provided with a thermometer and training in the safety aspects of bathing or showering people for whom they provide personal care.”
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