Care home company fined after a resident choked to death

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26 January, 2022

HC-One Limited has been fined following an incident when a resident choked to death on a jam doughnut.

A resident of Orchard Care Home, Lychgate Road, Tullibody, was given a piece of jam doughnut to eat on 7 August 2019. The resident had previously suffered from a stroke and had been diagnosed with dementia. She had been assessed as being at high risk of choking and consequently was on a 'minced and moist/fork mashable' diet. A jam doughnut is deemed unsuitable for someone on this diet and should not have been given to her. She died as a result of choking on the doughnut.

The HSE's investigation found that staff who gave out snacks at Orchard Care Home had not been properly trained and did not have awareness of food that was suitable for each diet. They regularly gave this resident food, which was not suitable for her diet, in breach of their own risk assessment.

HC-One Limited of Southgate House, Archer Street, Darlington, County Durham DL3 6AH pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Section 3(1) and Section 33(1)(a) and were fined £640,000.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector, Allison Aitken said: "Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working

"If a (sic) suitable training had been in place prior to the incident, the sad death of a resident could have been avoided."

Forbes Comment:

The case once again illustrates the importance of ensuring that employees receive adequate information, instruction and training at induction, and that this is regularly updated as and when circumstances change.

In this tragic case, there was a failure by the Defendant to adhere to the risk assessment they had carried out when the high risk of choking was known and identified.

The high fine reflects the gravity of the offence taking into account the factors set out in the Sentencing Council Guidelines.

For more information contact Ridwaan Omar in our Insurance department via email or phone on 01254 222457 or Lucy Harris in our Insurance department via email or phone on 01254 222443. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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