The Action Group, a limited company providing housing support services for vulnerable adults and children, has been sentenced after a service user was burnt at one of it's properties.

On 18 April 2015, a 49-year-old female service user with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe learning disabilities was assisted to a shower room by a support worker. During an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the shower room was described as being 'very hot' due to the radiator lacking an individual thermostatic control. While the support worker was aware the radiator was hot, she did not consider it to be hot enough to burn.

After showering the service user, the support worker assisted her to step out of the shower area and take hold of a grab rail which was positioned above the radiator.

The service users leg came into contact with the radiator, but as she is non-verbal and has difficulty balancing, she was unable to move her leg away from the radiator or communicate with the support worker to alert her. 

The support worker noticed a burn extending 20 centimetres on the left side of the injured lady's left calf and alerted the assistant team manager. The lady was taken to a specialist burns' unit for treatment but at a follow up appointment it was noted that the burn was not healing properly so a skin graft was taken from her thigh and applied to her calf. As a result, the victim was 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 during a routine inspection on Edinburgh City Council Environmental Health Team in November 2011. 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. 

Despite this, the company's internal systems failed to ensure remedial action was taken. Additionally, the Action Group failed to carry out any general internal risk assessment regarding the danger posed by the radiator, although an individual risk assessment in relation to the service user identified that she was at risk from heat sources because she might not be able to move away from them quickly or easily. 

The Action group pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and were fined £8,000 (reduced from £12,000 after an early guilty plea).

Speaking after the hearing, 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 dutyholders to visit the resource to help avoid such incidents in the future.”