The company running a care home in South London has recently been fined £90,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,000 for breaching fire safety regulations after the death of a resident.
A fire was discovered in the room of a 78-year-old pensioner, Mrs McDonald, after her cries for help were heard by members of staff. She suffered severe burns and sadly passed due to her injuries.
Following the fire, the London Fire Brigade fire investigators noted a series of serious safety concerns at the care home. The fire risk assessment for the care home was overdue for a review and was outdated for the current premises set-up. The fire risk assessment failings included; not adequately reflecting the premises, not adequately reflecting the no smoking policy in place and not considering the risk posed by individual smokers.
The Court later heard how the fire alarm, though found to be functioning, was old and had not operated when the fire first broke out, and that the fire door closest to her room was not closing properly. Alongside this, a modified lighter was recovered from Mrs McDonald’s room. She was also found to have been prescribed emollient cream, which contained 50% flammable ingredients.
Further to this, Mrs McDonald should have been identified as a person at risk since it had been disclosed that she had suffered a stroke in previous years and had severe cognitive impairment as a result, as well as this she was highlighted as being at risk of being disorientated.
London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly said, “The fire risk assessment did not adequately reflect the fact that Mrs McDonald was at serious risk in the event of a fire. She was a resident who smoked and had severe cognitive impairment. Not only did she have lighters, but she also had flammable ointments applied to the skin. These were serious breaches of fire safety and measures to safeguard the wellbeing of this resident could have been put in place easily and quickly and at little cost.”
These tragic events highlight the need for suitable, up to date fire risk assessments and personal emergency evacuation plans. Ensuring that these are kept up to date, not only for the premises but for all relevant persons, would help to highlight individuals at increased risk and ensure mitigation of risks where possible, alongside clear plans for staff to act on in the event of a fire.
If you are concerned about your current fire safety at your premises or need advice regarding the safety of residents in particular, please do not hesitate to contact us.