Parents want law change after disabled son dropped on escalator

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THE parents of a severely disabled man who was dropped down an escalator by his carer have launched a bid to change health and safety laws.

The elderly couple, from Dumfries, who have asked not to be identified, have held talks with Scottish Government officials and contacted MPs and ministers in Westminster.

They want to amend the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which covers the whole of the UK, so that personal carers are bound by the same legislation as other workers and companies. At present, they believe there is no protection for some of the UK’s most vulnerable people from being put in dangerous positions.

Their 42-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and cannot walk, talk or feed himself, was injured while visiting Loreburne shopping centre, in Dumfries, in November 2010.

His father, 66, said: “For some reason he decided to take him up the escalator, even though there was a perfectly good lift just 20ft away. He backed him up and started to take him up. He was struggling as soon as he got on the first step.

“I’ve not seen the rest of the CCTV footage. I refuse to watch it. But it seems he got halfway up when it happened. The wheelchair did three somersaults as it came down. He landed trapped at the bottom, upside down, with the escalator teeth digging into his face, head and arms.”

His son broke his legs and suffered internal injuries, some of which are still only now being diagnosed as he cannot talk so is unable to tell doctors what is wrong. Police investigated the incident, but the Crown Office did not take the case forward.

When the family asked if the incident could be looked at as a health and safety breach, they were told that, because they received grant funding and then employed his carers privately, they are classed as domestic servants and not covered by the legislation.

“There are wider implications here than my son,” his father said. “There are hundreds of thousands of disabled or elderly people being supported at home. People should be advised that if they employ someone, they are not covered by health and safety legislation, but that has not been happening.”

The family have raised their concerns with Scottish Government officials, who have offered their support even though the legislation in question is reserved to Westminster.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said health officials had met the couple, and added: “Officials will have a further meeting with the family where they will provide an update on any information that may be of interest.”

They have also been backed by their local MP, Russell Brown. “I’ve never seen a case where it is more obvious that someone did something seriously wrong, but it does not appear as though anyone is going to take responsibility,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Health and Safety Executive said: “The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was not intended to cover the employment relationship between a private householder and staff they employ to carry out domestic service in their private household.”