Mental health service provider fined following patient fall

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 18 year old, who does not wish to be named, 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.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

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