A care home in Scotland, prosecuted following the death of a service user with dementia who mistook chlorine tablets for mints has been fined £270,000. The 72-year old service user died a week after ingesting the tablets, which the care home had failed to store safely.
HC-ONE which owns the Fife-based care home pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and apologised to the family of the service user, promising that procedures had been reviewed to ensure that such tragic accidents would not happen again in future.
HC-ONE’s chief operating officer Paula Keys said: “We have always been clear that lessons must be learned from this tragic event, as the health and safety of our residents is our absolute priority.”
“A comprehensive internal review was also completed and acted on, and the HSE has approved our new system for handling potentially harmful products.”
The number of serious incidents involving toxic chemicals in care settings led to NHS Improvement issuing guidance to care providers earlier this year. The guidance highlights that cleaning chemicals used in care premises are covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH 2002) and require employers to have a duty of care towards anyone who could come into contact with them.
Use NHS Improvement’s Recommendations to Reduce the Risks Posed by Cleaning Chemicals
- Provide Secure Storage: Review storage arrangements throughout your premises. You may already have safe storage for hazardous chemicals, but do you also have potentially dangerous products such as washing up liquid, sanitising spray or denture tablets on your premises that could be accessed by service users? Your staff may need ready access to these products at any time but it’s still essential that they’re stored safely.
- Line of Sight Supervision: It’s so easy for cleaning chemicals to be left unattended on a trolley, presenting a risk to vulnerable service users. Make sure that all staff are aware that cleaning materials need to be kept in their line of sight at all times and that cleaning trolleys should be stored safely during breaks and promptly at the end of shifts.
- Decanting with Care: Staff should always follow guidance on decanting of cleaning products, in particular, only ever using container labelled for that specific purpose. Drinking glasses, cups or jugs should never be used due to the additional risks this can cause.
- Avoid Spillages: Ensure work techniques are followed that minimise the risk of leaks or spillages which could lead to harm. Where spillages occur, staff should be trained in how to deal with them quickly and safely.
- Provide Effective Information: Instructions on the safe use and storage of cleaning products should be provided in language that meets the needs of the person using them. This should take into consideration any language difficulties or learning disability the staff member may have.