Arinite Blog


Safety Assumptions in a Care Home Setting – The Case Against

Category: Care Sector Blog, Health & Safety | Kevin Irwin Twitter | Published on: Jan 16, 2019 | Updated: Feb 11, 2019 Read more: Care Sector Blog, Health & Safety

I recall from my health and safety training (quite a few years ago now) the use of various mnemonics that were recited in an effort to aid our quest to pass quite rigorous exams. I remember a good few of them, but I was recently reminded of one in particular, NAFOF which represented Never Assume Find Out First!

Related to this was a phrase, ‘when you ASSUME, you are making an ASS out of U or ME’.

I’m informed that other, profanity-based mnemonics for the same subject are available.

The meaning of the terms or phrases is clear. If wrong assumptions are made, then significant errors can be overlooked.

A catastrophe waiting to happen?

My recent experience is of one such incident where assumptions were made that could have proved extremely harmful in terms of physical injury, enforcement action, and reputational damage.

When auditing a residential care home (not an Arinite customer), I noticed, while examining certificates for lifting equipment, that while certificates were available for track, mobile and bath hoists, there were no such certificates for the belts or slings (known as lifting accessories) that would be used with the hoists.

On delving further, the manager, being aware of the regular visits of the examining engineer, assumed that the engineer was examining the belts and slings at the same time as the hoists. This however was not the case.

The engineer examined the hoists only, the contract for the work specified the hoists only, and the engineer assumed that some other organisation was examining the slings and belts.

The certificates of examination for the hoists were diligently filed by the admin officer who was not aware of any statutory requirements. When the situation was pointed out urgent arrangements were made to have the belts and slings examined on the same day.

Potential consequences

The consequences for the organisation involved could have been catastrophic!

There have been several incidents involving falls of frail patients or service users from hoists that have led to fatal injuries. Had an accident occurred, that organisation would almost certainly have been prosecuted and issued with a substantial fine. There would also be a very high likelihood of a substantial damages claim on behalf of the injured party.

Had an enforcing officer discovered the anomaly (instead of someone discovering the breach during an internal audit) it is likely that a prohibition notice would have been served on the organisation.

In either case the organisation would have been named (and shamed?) on the HSE register of prosecutions and notices. Such registers are scoured by the local and national press and so the organisation could have suffered reputational damage.

This anecdote not only illustrates the errors that can be made from making assumptions, it also demonstrates the benefit of having independent audits by a knowledgeable consultant.

Requirements for using lifting equipment in a Social Care environment

Staff need specific training in the use of lifting hoists and lifting accessories and this training should be updated regularly.

All lifting appliances (hoists) and lifting accessories (belts and slings) should be subject to visual checks before use and regular periodic checks thereafter. All lifting appliances and lifting accessories used for lifting people must be subject to a statutory thorough examination by a competent person every six months.

In addition to the statutory examinations, all lifting equipment must be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Arinite’s one-page “Care Sector – Lifting Equipment / LOLER” sets out a summary of the requirements for lifting operations and lifting equipment in the care sector.

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Arinite clients appreciate we provide practical, no-nonsense advice about what you need to do to establish and maintain a safe and healthy working environment. Our team of health and safety consultants take pride in keeping health and safety simple.

If you need to call upon our expert assistance, or just for an informal chat, please call our office 0207 947 9581, or type an enquiry using our contact form here.

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