Charity fined after disabled man dies after scalding

Ark Housing Association were found guilty of failing to train staff adequately at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Ark Housing Association were found guilty of failing to train staff adequately at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A housing association has been fined £75,000 after a disabled man suffered horrific burns after being scalded in a bath.

Joseph Hobbin – who suffered from cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy – was left in agony after his feet were plunged into a hot water bath.

Mr Hobbin, 60, was being put into his bath by an Ark Housing Association employee at his home in Haddington, East Lothian, when he suddenly suffered an epileptic fit. As the carer attempted to control Mr Hobbin’s movements, his feet dropped into the scalding water.

He was rushed to hospital for treatment for injuries which were said to have left the victim with “the skin falling off his feet”.

Mr Hobbin died in hospital two weeks later, on 26 June 2013, after suffering “complications of scalding”.

The Edinburgh-based housing association had previously admitted two charges of corporate negligence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court and representatives appeared at the court yesterday for the sentencing.

Ark pleaded guilty to failing to provide adequate training and supervision to their employees, and failing to adequately assess the risk of scalding presented by bathing its residents.

Sheriff Norman McFadyen said that though Mr Hobbin had suffered “catastrophic injuries” he considered the incident to be an “isolated failing” on the part of Ark.

The court was told Mr Hobbin had been under the care of the housing association for 16 years before his death in July 2013 and received round-the-clock, one-to-one support.

Depute fiscal Helen McCannell said: “Joseph was assisted from the toilet to the bath seat. The support worker assisted Joseph by lifting his legs over the side of the bath and at that point Joseph suffered a prolonged epileptic fit.” Ms McCannell said the support worker then struggled to control Mr Hobbin by attempting to support his head before the elderly resident’s legs came into contact with the water.

Ms McCannell said a subsequent Health and Safety Executive report highlighted that staff “did not receive training or instruction in relation to bath and shower temperature”.

Paul Gray QC, representing Ark Housing Association, said since Mr Hobbin’s death the charity has implemented improvements to its service including increasing employee training, the introduction of thermostat mixer valves and conducting regular audits.