Spitting Risk:

A 32-year-old care worker had to get a corneal transplant in her eye after a spitting incident at Low Moor Resource Centre in Bradford left her with only 20% vision in the eye She has been told there is a high risk the transplant may leave her blinded or may not improve her vision at all. 

She was working as a support worker for adults with challenging behaviour when she was spat at by the service user.     

Her vision has now become so bad that she is only able to see hand movements at a distance of a metre.  After a substantial time away from work she has returned to a lesser position.  More than a year after the accident she contacted her trade union, UNISON, for advice after she realised that her eye wasn’t going to recover.  Over the next days and weeks she began to suffer from pain in her left eye, which became swollen and red. Soon her vision became blurred and she was having difficulty seeing out of the eye. 

Her solicitors (Thompsons) argued that Bradford District Care NHS Trust failed to risk assess the risk to staff when dealing with patients.  The Trust admitted liability and settled the claim out of court just weeks before trial for £110,000.  The UNISON member said:    “When I was spat at I quickly washed out my eye and thought that would be the end of it. The next morning it felt scratchy, like I had an eye lash stuck. Over the next few days things became progressively worse. I was given eye drops by the hospital but they didn’t seem to help.” 

Her solicitors argued that Bradford District Care NHS Trust failed to risk assess the risk of spitting when dealing with this patient.   The Trust admitted liability and settled the claim out of court just weeks before trial for £110,000.    Phil Kyte from Thompsons Solicitors said:   

“This young woman is facing potential blindness in one eye who due to her perseverance has been able to return to work but in a job a grade below due to the nature of her injuries. The level of compensation reflects the seriousness of her injury as well as the money she has lost and the long term impact on her career.” 

Protect Staff from Spitting – Pam Johnson, UNISON Head of Health for Yorkshire and Humberside, said:    

“The Trust knew this service user had a tendency to spit and should have protected staff by providing goggles. A simple system would have identified the risk and a simple piece of equipment would have saved our member the trauma she has gone through, and even potentially her sight.”

Maitane SD 9

Gerard O’Dea is a conflict management, personal safety and physical interventions training consultant.  He is the training director for Dynamis, a specialist in personal safety and violence reduction initiatives and the European Adviser for ‘Verbal Defense and Influence’, a global programme which addresses the spectrum of human conflict. www.dynamis.training

Gerard’s book on Lone Worker Personal Safety is available on Amazon Kindle and Paperback.

National Personal Safety Day - Lone Working Book from Dynamis

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