At the Central Criminal Court, a NHS Trust in Kent was fined after pleading guilty to breaches of Health & Safety Regulations which resulted in two nurses suffering from serious injuries after being repeatedly stabbed.
Amandeep Murria of Kangs Solicitors sets out the circumstances.
The Circumstances | Kangs Solicitors Health and Safety Team
The Court heard how the two nurses were repeatedly stabbed by an individual who had entered the kitchen area and picked up a knife which was left on the work surface.
As a result of the brutal attack, both nurses have found it extremely difficult to return to the unit to fulfil their respective duties.
An Investigation was undertaken by The Health & Safety Executive (‘HSE), which discovered that:
- It was fundamentally unsafe to use knifes in that particular ward.
- Staff members were regularly entering the kitchen areas while knives were being used. There were no cautionary instructions or measures in place.
- Detailed risk assessments did not take place to identify patients who may pose a risk so that preventative control measures could be implemented.
The Relevant Law | Kangs Regulatory Law Advisors
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (‘the Act’) provides:
‘2 General duties of employers to their employees.
(1) It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of an employer’s duty under the preceding subsection, the matters to which that duty extends include in particular—
(a) the provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health;
(b) arrangements for ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances;
(c) the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees;
(d) so far as is reasonably practicable as regards any place of work under the employer’s control, the maintenance of it in a condition that is safe and without risks to health and the provision and maintenance of means of access to and egress from it that are safe and without such risks;
(e) the provision and maintenance of a working environment for his employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.’
3 General duties of employers and self-employed to persons other than their employees.
(1) It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.’
The Hearing | Kangs Health and Safety Solicitors
The NHS Trust pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Act and was:
- fined £300,000
- ordered to pay Prosecution Costs of £28,000
An Inspector from the HSE, Joanne Williams was quoted as saying:
“This incident has had a profound impact not only on the two Nurses who nearly died because of their injuries, but also their colleagues who witnessed the attacks. These NHS workers dedicated themselves to a public duty that came with daily challenges and the Trust had a responsibility to keep them safe.
“The treatment of patients in medium secure psychiatric units involves an inherent risk of violence and aggression. The needs of patients can be complex. However, the Trust nevertheless had a duty to ensure the safety of its staff and its patients so far as was reasonably practicable.
“In this case there were relatively straightforward steps that could have been taken prior to the incident to prevent it happening. These included carrying out a patient specific risk assessment prior to admission to the ward; the removal of knives from acute admission wards, including Burgess Ward where patients do not routinely require occupational therapy; and proper training in search techniques”.
How Can We Help? | Kangs Safety At Work Solicitors
Kangs Solicitors has a wealth of knowledge and experience in dealing with all matters of health and safety law.
Our specialist solicitors provide advice and assistance throughout the entire criminal process, from the initial intervention by the HSE through to enforcement, interview under caution and ultimately the defence of any ensuing criminal prosecution.
Who Can I Contact For Help? | Kangs National Criminal Defence Solicitors
Please feel free to contact our team through any of the solicitors named below who will be happy to provide you with some initial advice and assistance.