Recent Health & Safety Prosecutions


With a focus upon the Motor Trade in this alert some significant fines have been awarded recently, however, there are clearly lessons to be learnt here by all employers and employees in a variety of industries.

What happened?

Case 1: A tyre company has been sentenced for safety failings after 21-year-old man was killed when a tyre exploded.

The employee was repairing a puncture to the tyre of a ‘dresser loading shovel’ when it exploded.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the employee was working on his own with inadequate work equipment which was not properly maintained. He was not trained or competent to undertake the work he was told to complete.

The company pleaded guilty, at a previous hearing on 29 January 2016, to breaches of Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 were today fined £1 million and ordered to pay costs of £99,485.

After the hearing, the HSE Principal Inspector stated: "Employees need to be provided with properly maintained equipment and the correct equipment to undertake tasks whilst out on site. Employees also need to be trained and competent in the tasks they were asked to undertake.”

Case 2: A motor vehicle repair company was fined after a 27 year old man gaining work experience at the garage, was crushed to death by a vehicle.

The employee had been watching another employee carry out repair work on a family saloon car and was at the front of the vehicle as he added some antifreeze to the engine.

The mechanic went to the driver’s side opened the door and turned the ignition on from outside of the vehicle. The vehicle shot forward trapping and crushing the young man, who later died from his injuries.

A Health and Safety (HSE) investigation found no defects with the vehicle, but it had instead been left in gear with the handbrake off.

HSE found that employees had not been given any specific instructions on selecting gears and use of handbrake when parking vehicles, on or off ramps. No specific instructions had been given to employees on operating the ignition from outside of the vehicle. There was no system in place for storage of keys.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and were fined £33,000 with £12,000 costs.

The HSE inspector stated after the hearing: "Had the company ensured employees were trained and instructed on moving vehicles around the garage safely then this tragic incident might not have occurred.”

Case 3: An accident repair company has been fined after it failed to comply with an improvement notice.

The Magistrates’ Court heard the company had a routine inspection by an inspector from the Health and Safety Executive from which an improvement notice was served. The company had been using a spray booth to spray isocyanate paints, and the spray booth had not been inspected by a competent person.

The court heard that the owner, who had been uncooperative, failed to comply with the notice, despite several efforts by HSE staff to explain the need for compliance and how to comply.

The company was fined a total of £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,666 after pleading guilty to an offence under Regulation 9(2) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH), and Section 33 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Case 4: A company has been fined after the wheel of a JCB digger fell onto one of its apprentice workers.

The man was working for heavy plant vehicle company at a customer site.

The Magistrates Court heard how the apprentice was tasked with changing air filled wheels with foam wheels on a machine intended to be used on a recycling site. The wheel weighed more than 400kg. The incident left the man with broken bones in both feet.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company did not have any handling equipment for wheels, had not assessed the operation and had not trained workers on how to handle wheels.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Manual Handling Regulations 1992. And was fined £67,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2929.70.

Speaking after the hearing the HSE Inspector said: "This incident could have been prevented if the company had used a mechanical wheel handler costing less than £700. Measures such as this would have been apparent had the task been properly assessed.”

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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© 26/10/2017 LELC                                                                                                                           H&S Alert 1017

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