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Laleham Care Home: Owners KCRH warned about lift 11 years before tragedy

By KentOnline reporter

A care home company, where a worker died in a lift tragedy, was warned about the problem 11 years earlier.

Grandmother Joan Daws, 64, died in October 2013 when she became trapped at the Laleham Care Home in Central Parade, Herne Bay.

But now a judge has heard how the home owners, KCRH, were alerted to the potential threat, which could have been solved with a £624 sensor.

Care worker Joan Daws died after being trapped in a lift
Care worker Joan Daws died after being trapped in a lift

The company has now pleaded guilty through its lawyers to two charges under Health and Safety regulations about ensuring the safety for employees and non-employees.

Prosecutor Jonathon Bates told Canterbury Crown Court: “The defendants aren’t charged with causing the death of Mrs Daws as in manslaughter but of allowing risks to continue over a long period.”

Judge James O'Mahony said that the lift “was a rather unusual one, which on the north side didn’t have anything to prevent contact with limb or clothing and the wall.

“And from an early stage it became apparent that there was a device which was available and had been recommended which would have stopped the lift from coming into contact and endangering people.”

The care home bosses said they didn’t install any device because of concerns that the lift might stop suddenly “and upset service users”.

After Mrs Daws’ death the sensor was installed immediately – prompting the judge to say the company had shown “poor judgement...although it had not been done because it was unwilling to spend money”.

Police were called to the Laleham care home
Police were called to the Laleham care home

The building became a care home in 1985 and the “increasingly antique” lift was given an overhaul in April 2002 by Kent Lift Services, which had recommended the installation of an infra red sensor.

Eight years later, KLS made safety recommendations again which weren’t acted on because of the “haphazard” way the company was dealing with this issue.

“Unfortunately this wasn’t the only serious shortcoming as to maintenance, because there is a requirement for them to carry out a thorough examination of the lift but this didn’t happen for seven years, " added the prosecutor.

Dominic Adamson, for KCRH, said: “The company wishes to express its profound remorse for the death of Mrs Daws. She was a much valued employee and is much missed by staff.”

He said the company didn’t install the sensor “because it didn’t think it was right for them but they were not deliberately flouting legislation.”

The weighing chair which trapped Joan Daws in the lift
The weighing chair which trapped Joan Daws in the lift

Judge O’Mahony will pronounce sentence in a few weeks.

* Before the hearing began, the Judge dressed members of Mrs Daws' family who sat in the public gallery.

He told them: “I would like to extend my profound sympathies and condolences to them.

“This lady was regarded by the defendants as a valuable employee and as they accept she was much more than that to her family.

“The courts can’t put everything right. Real justice would be if she could be brought back..but that’s just not possible.”

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