Nursing home company sued for ‘unforgivable’ fire safety lapses

The owners of a Warrington nursing home in which a 90-year-old resident accidentally set himself on fire while smoking have been fined over £60,000 for serious breaches of fire safety rules.

Ashberry Healthcare Ltd., which ran the former Heathercroft Care Home in Woolston until 2021, pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to comply with the Fire Safety (Regulatory Reform) Order 2005 at Warrington Crown Short, Tuesday, October 11.

The Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service filed a complaint after firefighters were called to the house on May 21, 2018 by paramedics, who found Henry Robinson on fire in an outdoor smoking shelter. He died on the way to Whiston Hospital from a heart attack.

Inspecting officers found that an individual risk assessment allowing Mr Robinson to smoke safely was missing. Their audit also revealed two flaws in the “compartmentalization” of the building, potentially allowing smoke and flames to spread in the event of a fire.

At sentencing, Judge Jack McGarva said the decision to allow Mr Robinson to smoke unsupervised did not cause his death. However, he said it was ‘unforgivable’ that shortcomings in a safe working system meant it took three minutes and 43 seconds for anyone to respond to him by pressing the shelter’s call button.

He ordered the Hemel Hempstead-based company to pay a total of £62,000 in fines and costs of £17,500.

Welcoming the sentencing, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service deputy fire chief Lee Shears said:

“This has been a very difficult case for the firefighters who attended the fire, the nursing staff at the home, the paramedics and our inspectors. Our hearts go out to those close to Mr. Robinson.

“His final moments remind care providers of the importance of establishing – and, more importantly, following – detailed individual risk assessments for all residents who smoke. They are particularly vulnerable if they have mobility problems or if they are treated with emollient creams, which make skin, clothing and bedding highly flammable.

“We work hard to help healthcare providers understand their fire safety responsibilities, but as this tragic case shows, failure to do so has serious consequences.”

To note

A post-mortem examination revealed that Mr Robinson had died of a heart attack. It should not be implied that the fire caused his death or that Ashberry Care Ltd. was prosecuted for causing his injury or death.

Last updated: Wednesday, October 12, 2022

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