Mental Health Trust fined £10,000 after teenage patient falls out of window in Harlow

Politics / Mon 27th Oct 2014 at 08:49am

MENTAL health services provider North Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust (NEPUFT) has been fined for safety failings after a resident service user with a history of trying to abscond fell from the first floor window of a secure unit in Harlow.

The Derwent Centre
The 18 year old suffered two fractures to her back and a dislocated right knee after falling a distance of three-and-a-half metres from her dormitory bedroom window at the Derwent Centre on Hamstel Road on 27 July 2013. NEPUFT was prosecuted on 21 October after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the fall.

Colchester Magistrates’ Court heard the incident could have been prevented had a window restrictor on her bedroom dormitory window been properly set to the requisite 100mm.

North Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust, of Stapleford House, Stapleford Close, Chelmsford, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £615 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Kim Tichias, said: “The risks of vulnerable patients falling from windows are well known. There have been a number of similar accidents in recent years, including fatalities, and any windows that are accessible to vulnerable people should be restrained so that they cannot be opened far enough to allow people to fall out. This incident is all the more serious because it involves a member of the public who was in this environment specifically to ensure her safety and well-being. Furthermore, the Trust was aware of the risks but had not put adequate safety measures in place in a timely manner. A window restrictor, correctly set to allow a maximum opening of 100mm, would have prevented this incident and the serious injuries suffered.”

Karen Fryer, Head of Consulting at CRS said that compliance with basic standards would have prevented this incident. Working on the basis that ‘if it can happen, it will’, it was obvious to fit window restrictors. “CRS provides regular health and safety advice to care homes and other health services across the UK. We would be pleased to advise yours too”, said Karen.

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