During 2018, the CQC has published a range of guidance documents for care homes aimed at reducing potentially harmful incidents. The series, entitled Learning from safety incidents and available on the CQC website, has included guidance on unsafe bedrails, avoiding burns from hot water and surfaces and managing choking risk.
Published on 29th November, the latest guidance document relates to falls from windows and highlights that although the risk of such falls is widely known, not all providers have appropriate safety measures in place. As recently as this year, the CQC prosecuted a nursing home after a service user suffered a fatal fall from an unsecured second floor window leading to both the provider and the registered manager being heavily fined as a result of their negligence.
The CQC guidance clearly states that to manage the risk of falls to residents, you must to assess risks:
- arising from your premises,
- relating to individual residents, including where additional measures may be required to avoid falls from windows.
Read on to learn more about your legal responsibility for preventing falls and the steps you can take to keep your service users safe.
The CQC guidance recommends that care providers refer to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publication Risks to vulnerable members of the public from falling from height from windows as an industry standard on good practice. To supplement this, the HSE has published a further useful information sheet entitled Falls from windows or balconies in health and social care, also available for download from its website.
4 Simple Steps to Prevent Fatal Falls from Windows
- Risk assessment: To reduce the risk of falls from windows, you must risk assess both your premises and the individuals in your care. If your assessment identifies that someone in your care is at particular risk, then you should identify appropriate control measures. Remember that it’s essential to consider all windows, even those that may seem inaccessible.
- Use of control measures: The single most effective control measure for most providers is the use of effective window restrictors. These simple to fit devices cost just a few pounds each but can be life savers. The HSE requires that any windows accessible to vulnerable people which could pose a falls risk must be suitably restricted, so your restrictors should limit the window opening to 100 mm or less, be robust enough to withstand forces applied by a person determined to open them and be secured using tamper-proof fittings. As well as window restrictors, you may need to provide screening to any balcony areas and consider limiting access to upper floors, if appropriate safety measures are not in place.
- Effective maintenance: Regular maintenance checks will help ensure that your restrictors are functioning properly and that their effectiveness has not deteriorated as a result of wear and tear or tampering. If any concerns are noted, takes steps to secure the window immediately and arrange for repairs to be carried out promptly.
- Involve staff: Ensure that staff in all roles are aware of the risks of unsecured windows and the need to report any defects or concerns to a responsible person immediately. By sharing responsibility across your whole team, you minimise the risk of an unsecured window going unnoticed.