Care home provider and support worker fined after resident severely burned in bath

Published: 27 Oct 2015

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 percent of her body from a scalding bath.  The site pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974 and was fined £20,000.

The resident required major surgery including amputation of all her toes following the incident on 13 August 2013. She was also left without any flesh on her ankles. The injured person who had been a resident at the registered care home for 14 years, now has to use a wheelchair and faces more corrective surgery.

Key failings:

  1. Livingston Sheriff Court heard today (22 October) that a care support worker with 11 years experience, failed to check the temperature of the water before the resident got in the bath.
  2. Although the immersion heater’s thermostat failed causing the scalding water in the taps, it was the failure by care support worker to check the temperature of the water that was the direct cause of resident’s injuries.
  3. 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 home care provider.
  4. 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.

Implications for clients:

To ensure legal compliance and to prevent a similar situation in our client base the following requirements need to be met:

  1. Ensure that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is made available for the risk of exposure to scalding water.
  2. Check the water temperature of bath before commencing bathing of the user.
  3. 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.
  4. Ensure that the required statutory inspection checks are carried out on the immersion heaters within the specified time frames with remedial works to be conducted where identified.
  5. “Thermostatic mixing valves that reduce the maximum temperature of the water at the tap, have reduced the number of accidents such as this and are a requirement in registered care homes. However, they are no replacement for a physical check of the water temperature. I would also urge anyone with an immersion heater to check that it has a secondary thermostatic cut-out to prevent the hot tank boiling if it fails”.