£1 million fine for BUPA fire death

£1 million fine for BUPA fire death

April 1, 2022

A BUPA care company has been ordered to pay fines and costs of over £1 million for a fire that killed a care home resident.

It was during March 2016 that a 69-year old residential wheelchair user was smoking unsupervised in a shelter in the garden (of the care home) when his clothing caught fire.  The fire was seen by a care assistant who called 999, staff ran to put out the fire, but it was too late and the resident died from his injuries.

Upon investigation, it was found that a smoking risk assessment had been completed, but it failed to identify the risk from the resident’s use of emollient creams, which were flammable and could be a significant fire hazard if allowed to build up on skin, clothing and bedding.  Care home staff reported being unaware of previous incidents where burn marks were found upon the clothing and so would’ve checked on the resident whilst they were smoking.

The care home company pleaded guilty to the charge that it had failed to effectively manage fire safety measures.  It was fined £937,500 and ordered to pay costs of over £100,000.

There is legislative need for employers and others with responsibility for premises to carry out a fire risk assessment.  Within that assessment fire hazards must be identified and in this case those from emollient creams and smoking.  Once the hazards have been identified risk control measures must be specified, which will prevent a fire from starting or restrict its spread.  In the case of residents smoking, a person-specific risk assessment needs to be included as to whether that individual is at increased risk, for example due to creams, oxygen use or a health condition and the precautions required.  Emergency procedures must also cover scenarios where a resident’s clothing is on fire.

Staff must be instructed in the findings of all relevant risk assessments including any specific actions they need to implement.  Also, keep a record to show who delivered the training, when and the attendees.

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