RECENT HEALTH & SAFETY PROSECUTIONS

Introduction

Five court cases have recently concluded with significant fines issued and lessons to be learnt for all employers.

What happened? 

Case 1: An employee working for a tipper trailer manufacturer died in a fall from cherry picker.

  • Provide and maintain a safe working system as employees repaired a Morris 10-tonne crane
  • Make a suitable and sufficient assessment of health & safety risks to employees
  • Make arrangements for the effective control, monitoring and review of preventative and protective health & safety measures of employees engaged in maintenance tasks

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 2(1) of the Health and Safety At Work etc Act 1974 and Regulations 3(1) and 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and was fined £200,000 plus costs of £5,622.05 and £170 victim surcharge.

The prosecuting HSE inspector commented: "Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.  This incident could have been prevented had [the company] provided appropriate supervision and suitable fall-arrest equipment for their workers to wear and use.”

Case 2: A car bodywork repair specialist employee suffered serious burns after a pressure washer ignited a highly flammable vapour whilst cleaning a spray booth.  The employee later died as a result of his injuries.

Nottingham Crown Court was told that the pressure washer was taken into the booth and subsequently ignited the flammable vapour which formed above the gun-wash that was poured onto the floor.  The ignition resulted in a serious fire.

The HSE investigation found no proper planning had been undertaken by the company and this should have identified alternative and far safer methods of keeping the booth clean.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) 2002 and was fined £20,000 plus costs of £12,500. 

The prosecuting HSE inspector said: "[The company] failed to conduct a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks associated with the use of a highly flammable solvent for cleaning.  This incident could have been prevented if the company had done all that was reasonably practicable to reduce the risks associated with the cleaning operation.”

Case 3: An employee of a beverage gas supply company was left with life-changing injuries after a gas cylinder exploded. 

Blackpool Magistrates’ Court heard how the employee was filling mixed-gas cylinder, to be used for dispensing drinks in restaurants and pubs, by connecting the cylinders to a high-pressure filling system.  During the process, one of the cylinders the employee was standing near exploded.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £40,000 plus £5,932 in costs.

Speaking after the trial, the HSE inspector said: "Robust pre-fill checks of high pressure cylinders should be undertaken before they are filled and workers must be informed of this.  The injured worker should have received adequate training, instruction and supervision to be able to carry out their work safely but the company failed to do this. As a result of the company’s failings, a person has been left with life-changing injuries.”

Case 4: A worker who fell from scaffolding suffered life-changing injuries, including the loss of sight in one eye. 

An employee of a construction firm was in an induced coma for two weeks after falling more than six metres from scaffolding.  The worker suffered several serious injuries, including losing the sight in his right eye and five fractures to the skull.

The HSE’s investigation into the incident found:

  • The employee was untrained
  • The supervisor was unfamiliar with the current expected safety techniques
  • The appropriate equipment had not been provided to the worker to conduct his work safely

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, and was fined £26,000 plus costs of £1,657.76.

Speaking after the hearing, the HSE inspector said: "We want all workers to go home health and safe.  Those in control of work have a responsibility to ensure safe methods of working are used and to inform, instruct and train their workers in their use.  If industry-recognised safe systems of erecting scaffolding had been in place prior to the incident, the life-changing injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented.”

Case 5: A paper-coating company has been fined after a worker suffered burn injuries following a fire caused by using a highly flammable liquid to clean rollers on a coating machine.

The HSE’s investigation found that the company did not ensure that risks from the use of highly flammable liquids was eliminated or reduced across a number of areas of that activity.

The company pleaded guilty at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court to breaching Regulation 6(1) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) 2002 and was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,505.40.

Speaking after the hearing, an HSE Principal Inspector said: "Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to inform, instruct and train their own workers in that safe system of working.  In this case, if a suitable system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the serious injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented.”

What do you need to do?

The common thread in all of the above incidents is that each injury could have easily been prevented if the risks had been properly identified.

As we frequently explain in our Alerts, simple steps like carrying out adequate risk assessments, and proper training and supervision for staff, will help prevent similar accidents such as the above from happening.

To prevent one of your workers suffering a similar fate you should make sure you have properly assessed and applied effective control measures for all significant hazards that have been identified.  Follow this up with a process of active monitoring to check your control measures are actually being followed in practice. 

Finally, it is often overlooked that there does not have to be an actual injury for an employer to be prosecuted - a breach of the relevant health and safety legislation could be sufficient grounds for enforcement action.

  

This is a good time to ensure risk assessments, standards, training and supervision are appropriate, up-to-date and the provisions of your health and safety policy are being applied in practice.

You should bring this Safety Alert to the attention of all personnel who need to take action.

If you have a query regarding this alert, or any other health & safety issue, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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 31/08/2017 LELC                                                                                                                                    H&S Alert 0817            


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