A large care home has recently been sentenced £400,000 plus costs for breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. This is a good example of the increased sentencing powers under the Sentencing Council's health and safety sentencing guidelines which came into force in February this year. This should serve as a warning to any business, large or small, that health and safety needs to be at the top of their agenda as the potential consequences of a breach are very high financial penalties.
In this case a care home accepted that their staff training program and their health and safety risk assessments where inadequate. This led to service user falls and in one instance, a resident died. It is important to note that this company pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and this sentence will be reduced to reflect that. If this case had proceeded to trial and they were found guilty, they could have expected a fine one third higher.
Interestingly, this offence does not imply any responsibility for the death of any service users. The appropriate charge to hold the care home to account for a death would have been corporate manslaughter.
This case is a perfect example of a question health and safety lawyers have been asking themselves since the new sentencing guidelines came into force; will many companies be charged with corporate manslaughter now such high penalties are available for easier to prove offences?
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Leeds-based BUPA Care Homes (CFC Homes) has been fined £400,000 over the inappropriate management of bedrails at one of its care homes.