Charitable company sentenced over severe radiator burn

Published:  15 September, 2016

A company providing housing support services for vulnerable adults and children in Edinburgh has been sentenced after a service user was burnt at one of its properties.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard that on 18 April 2015 a 49-year-old female with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe learning disabilities was assisted to a shower room by a support worker, when she was burnt by a radiator lacking an individual thermostatic control.

The support worker showered the service user and began drying her while she was sitting on a chair, before helping her to step out of the shower area and take hold of a grab rail, which was positioned above the radiator.

While standing over the radiator her leg came into contact with the radiator. As the service user is non-verbal and has difficulty balancing she was unable to move her leg away from the radiator or alert the support worker. It is unknown exactly how long her leg was against the radiator.

When the support worker noticed the burn on the left side of the injured woman’s left calf, she alerted the assistant team manager and the woman was taken to a specialist burns’ unit in Livingston for treatment on the burn, which extended 20 centimetres up her calf.

At a follow up appointment it was noted that the burn was not healing properly and a skin graft was taken from her thigh and applied to her calf. As a result the victim has been left with permanent scarring.

During the course of the investigation it came to light that The Action Group had been alerted to the risk posed by the radiator. In November 2011 a routine inspection was carried out by Edinburgh City Council Environmental Health team. The written report required the radiator to be covered and a follow up email in 2012 asked whether the radiator in the bathroom had been provided with a suitable cover to protect clients from scalding.

However, the company’s internal systems failed to ensure remedial action was taken and The Action Group also failed to carry out any general internal risk assessment regarding the danger posed by the radiator in question.

The Action Group, registered office at 57 Albion Road, Edinburgh pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £8000, reduced from £12,000 for an early guilty plea.

HSE inspector Hazel Dobb said: “It was foreseeable that an unprotected, hot radiator could pose a risk to vulnerable individuals with reduced mobility and to those who could not react appropriately or quickly enough to prevent injury.

“There are several published sources of guidance on preventing burns and scalds which are available to download from the HSE website and we urge all duty holders to visit the resource to help avoid such incidents in the future.”