The family of a man with dementia are suing a Scottish care home owned by the Catholic Church after he fell to his death from a second floor window. 94-year-old Peter Connors had only been resident at Wellburn care home for two weeks when the accident took place and the home has now closed following the fatality.
Mr Connors’ family allege that the management of the home was negligent in failing to ensure that measures were in place to prevent the window from being opened wide enough for him to fall and are now pursuing a civil claim. The Crown Office is also conducting an external investigation as a result of the incidents and the concerns raised by the family.
Despite previous warnings and high-profile incidents involving falls from unsecured windows, terrible events such as this continue to occur. However, by putting in place the few simple and inexpensive measures below, you can ensure this type of tragedy never happens in your care home.
Prevent Fatal Falls
The Health and Safety Executive has recognised that falls from windows can be a particular problem for care homes, especially those providing care for people living with dementia. In response to the number of reported incidents, the HSE has now published a helpful information sheet, Falls from windows or balconies in health and social care, which can be downloaded from its website.
5 Steps to Prevent Fatal Falls in Your Care Home
- Complete a risk assessment: In order to reduce the risk of falls from windows you must risk assess both your premises and service users. If your assessment identifies that individuals in your care could be at risk then you should put in place adequate control measures. Remember that it’s essential to consider all windows, even those that may seem inaccessible.
- Implement control measures: Your control measures could include steps such as fitting adequate window restrictors, ensuring balconies are protected or limiting access to upper floors.
- Use suitable window restrictors: The HSE requires that any windows accessible to vulnerable people which could pose a falls risk must be suitably restricted. Your window restrictors should restrict 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.
- Carry out regular maintenance checks: Regular checks will help ensure that restrictors are functioning properly and that their effectiveness has not deteriorated as a result of use, wear or tampering. If any shortfalls are noted, you must ensure that the window is secured immediately and any repairs are carried out promptly.
- Improve staff awareness: Ensure that staff in all roles are aware of the risks created by unsecured windows and the need to report any defects or concerns to a responsible person. By sharing the responsibility across your whole team, you reduce the risk of an unsecured window going unnoticed.
If you need help assessing and minimising risks faced by service users in your care, Care Quality Matters provides simple, step-by-step advice and guidance on health and safety in care every month. Click here to find out more.