Care home company prosecuted for “unforgiveable” fire safety failures

The owners of a Warrington care home at which a 90-year-old resident accidentally set fire to himself while smoking have been fined more than £60,000 for serious breaches of fire safety regulations.

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 Court on Tuesday (October 11th).

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service brought the charges after firefighters were called to the home on May 21st 2018 by carers, who found Henry Robinson on fire in an outdoor smoking shelter. He died on the way to Whiston Hospital as a result of heart attack.

Inspecting officers found that an individual risk assessment to enable Mr Robinson to smoke safely had gone missing. Their audit also uncovered two defects in the building’s ‘compartmentation’, potentially allowing smoke and flames to spread in the event of a fire.

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 deficiencies in a safe system of work led to it taking three minutes and 43 seconds for anyone to respond to him 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, Lee Shears, Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“This has been a very distressing case for the firefighters who attended the fire, the care staff at the home, ambulance crews and our inspecting officers. Our thoughts are with Mr Robinson’s loved ones.

“His final moments serve as a reminder to care providers of the importance of having in place - and, more importantly, following - detailed individual risk assessments for all residents who smoke. They are particularly vulnerable if they have mobility problems or are treated with emollient creams, which make skin, clothing and bedding highly flammable.

“We work hard to help care providers to understand their responsibilities when it comes to fire safety, but as this tragic case highlights there are serious consequences for failing to comply.”

Note

A post mortem examination found Mr Robinson died of a heart attack. It should not be implied that the fire caused his death or that Ashberry Care Ltd. has been prosecuted for causing his injuries or death.

Last updated: Tuesday 08 November 2022