VIC: Enforceable undertaking and $20,000 fine after aged care resident burned

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Wednesday, 28 October, 2020 - 12:45
Incidents & prosecutions

A residential aged care facility owner/operator in Frankston South has entered into an enforceable undertaking and been fined $20,000 (plus court costs) by Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after an elderly resident sustained serious burns.

Baptcare employed a number of people at the workplace and engaged catering contractors to provide catering services for residents.

This included the provision of catering assistants, morning and afternoon tea, and the catering contractor was required to induct its employees to the workplace.

During afternoon tea on 11 January 2018, a catering assistant provided a resident with a black coffee in a plastic mug with spouter lid in the dining room.

It was placed on a table of a ‘princess chair’, at the end of the table away from the resident. The resident was 100 years old, unable to communicate and was mostly immobile with limited upper body strength.

Within a couple of minutes, the catering assistant heard a knocking sound and realised it was the resident who was kicking her arms and legs around.

The catering assistant approached the resident and could tell by her face that something was wrong. It was at this time the catering assistant could see that the black coffee had spilt on the resident’s upper thigh.

Realising she would need assistance the catering assistant proceeded to find a care worker employed by Baptcare near the front entrance at the workplace.

The care worker attended to the resident who was wheeled to her room for treatment.

The catering assistant was unaware of any emergency/call buttons, one of which was located close to where the resident had been seated.

There was a risk to the health and safety of residents of serious injury or death as a result of a delay in emergency treatment being provided, in the event of an emergency, as all catering contractors may not have been aware of the location of emergency/call buttons at the workplace.

Baptcare failed, so far as was reasonably practicable, to ensure that catering contractors were sufficiently inducted at the workplace so they knew, should an emergency arise where the emergency/call buttons were located.

As a result of the incident, the resident received a serious burn injury. The resident passed away two weeks later, however, WorkSafe Victoria said it does not maintain the offender’s failure resulted in the resident’s death.

The offender pleaded guilty and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $20,000 and to pay costs of $5,633.