Private provider fined over safety failings

Private healthcare provider Nuffield Health has been fined for safety failings after an employee suffered a fractured kneecap at the Ipswich Hospital.

Mrs Shelagh Allen was working in the clinic room of a ward at the Hospital on 5 May 2011 when the incident happened.

Mrs Allen entered the room (which had just been wet-mopped) after completing a patient drugs round and fell badly on her right knee causing a multiple fracture of her kneecap. Her knee was operated on at the hospital that same day and she was discharged two days later. She was fitted with a leg brace and was able to walk only with the aid of crutches for around 4 months.

Mrs Allen could only return to work on light duties after ten months and still has to take painkillers. She now has reduced movement in her right knee and can no longer kneel on it. She may still have to undergo further surgery.

Ipswich Magistrates’ Court heard that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Nuffield Health had failed to ensure the safety of Mrs Allen and others whilst working in their hospital.

Nuffield Health admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £10,503.55 in costs. The company was also asked to pay a £15 victim surcharge, the proceeds of which will be spent on services for victims and witnesses.

“This incident was completely avoidable,” said HSE Inspector Glyn Davies.  “Nuffield Health should have scheduled the floor cleaning for a much quieter time and restricted access to the wet floors until they had completely dried. The hospital floors should have been tested for their slip-risk and consideration given to replacing any high risk surfaces as well as providing staff with anti-slip footwear.

“None of these simple safety measures was taken and no thorough risk assessment was carried out, resulting in a long term employee suffering a serious and painful injury.

“Slipping and tripping are the most common causes of major injuries within UK workplaces yet there is freely-available guidance from HSE for employers to use. In 2010/11, 35% of all reported injuries to employees were due to slips, trips or falls. If slips and trips were taken more seriously and proper controls introduced the number of injuries would reduce.

“HSE will not hesitate to take action where there is the risk of serious harm to people at work.”


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