Recent H&S court prosecutions

Director given prison sentence after serious accident
An employee of R K United Ltd had his arm impaled on a spike sticking out of a control system whilst using a crane arm on a lorry. The impact shattered several bones causing life-long injuries.

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) found the crane had numerous serious defects and the worker had not received the correct training to operate the lorry loader crane.
Mr HG pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was given a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service.

After the hearing, the HSE Inspector said:

This injury was easily preventable, and the risk should have been identified. The lorry loader crane should have been properly maintained, regular inspections carried out, and a thorough examination taken place every twelve months. The disabled safety system would have been found during the examination, ensuring that this incident could not have occurred.

Ladder fall leads to death and £53,000 fine

An employee of Henderson and Aitken Limited, fell from the top rung of a ladder when it slipped sideways on the scaffold. He died of multiple injuries.

An HSE specialist inspector found that the lateral movement of the ladder due to the lack of proper fixing was approximately 20cm. The scaffold had also been erected by an unqualified person after being asked to do so by the company director, who was aware he was unqualified. The director allowed other to access and use the scaffold even though it had not been erected to the correct standard.

Henderson and Aitken Limited of 6 Balmoral Terrace, Aberdeen, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of Work at Height Regulations 2005 and Section 33(1)(c) of HSWA and was fined £53,000.

The HSE Principal Inspector said:

Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known. This tragic and preventable death highlights the need for those undertaking work at height to ensure that it is carried out safely, that industry guidance is followed and that the relevant regulations are complied with. It is vitally important that those planning and arranging for such work give sufficient regard to the risks posed to workers and members of the public through their actions.

Fall from lorry leads to multiple injuries and £9,400 fine

A Braithwaite Engineers Limited employee was injured receiving multiple fractures of his head, ribs, shoulder blade and fingers, when he fell from a lorry bed whilst unloading it.

Investigating, the HSE found the company had failed to provide suitable instructions and training so that employees did not access lorry beds in an unsafe manner.

Braithwaite Engineers Limited, of Units A&B Leeway House, Leeway Industrial Estate, Newport pleaded guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £9,400 plus costs of £1,680.75.

The HSE Inspector said:

Falls from vehicles can be overlooked by employers when considering risks from work at height. Simple measures would have prevented this accident.

How to avoid a H&S prosecution

The consequences of serious accidents have always been painful: workplace deaths devastate the lives of others; serious accidents bring life-long changes and court prosecutions will adversely impact the company directors as well as the financial stability of the business involved.

Yet the actions that all businesses can take to avoid a court prosecution will, in themselves, help avoid a serious accident or incident in the first place.

Our top tips to avoid a workplace accident – and hence avoid the risk of prosecution – are:

  1. Have all of your health and safety documentation signed, dated and reviewed at least annually.
  2. Make sure new starters receive basic health and safety training on day one (not week one or month one)
  3. Supplement initial H&S training with new starters – and all of your existing staff – with regular health and safety training. Little and often training works better than lots, but infrequent, training.
  4. Check you have the correct number of workplace risk assessments in place and review then at least annually or after any significant changes. Common risk assessments topics include: the workplace; the tasks; asbestos; fire;
  5. Get competent advice. If you are not sure – ask those who are.
  6. Use H&S Checklist – look, inspect and review on a regular basis.
  7. Keep yourself updated on health and safety and the changes in the regulations and guidance. For instance, the HSE (Inspector) regularly issues Safety Updates to warn of new dangers to be aware of.

No workplace can guarantee to be accident-free, but if you put in place the basics above, you will have the tools to help prevent workplace accidents and incidents and also the evidence you will need to defend your business against the Inspectors.

What to do when the HSE health and safety inspector calls

Health and safety inspectors are duty-bound to ensure businesses improve workplace health and safety in order to reduce workplace fatalities and serious injuries and ill-health.

That is why that have such wide powers of entry to all UK workplaces, and why you should never hinder their work.

The HSE and health and safety inspectors have the power to:

  • enter premises;
  • inspect and investigate;
  • take measurements, samples and photographs;
  • require an area or machine to be left undisturbed;
  • seize, render harmless or destroy dangerous items; and.
  • obtain information and take statements.

They can (and do) can charge a ‘Fee for Intervention’ of £154 per hour of work (known as FFI) if they find a ‘material breach’ of regulations on your premise.

Having seen many of their invoices, we know that a review of your health and safety could be a lot cheaper than their visit!

Some common problems they find include:

  • Unsafe working practices.
  • Hazardous materials i.e. dust, asbestos etc.
  • Unguarded or dangerous machinery.

Inspectors can issue a “Prohibition Notice” requiring work to stop, or an “Improvement Notice” requiring certain safety improvements to be made urgently.

Tips to dealing with the inspectors:

  • Be polite and helpful. Being the opposite will only make things worse for you.
  • Don’t ignore their advice. Delaying improvements will only make things worse for you.
  • Don’t deal with this alone. Get help from a health and safety consultant who will know how to deal with the situation to stop it escalating to court.

We are often called in after the Fire, HSE, Local Authority or Insurance Inspectors have visited, but we can still help you in many ways to satisfy their requests.

Why do the Inspectors visit?

HSE inspectors visit premises and businesses for a variety of reasons but the most common ones are:

  • As a result of a complaint by someone (i.e. disgruntled employees, concerned neighbour, worried members of the public etc.); After an accident or incident;
  • A regular planned inspection; or
  • They were in the area seeing someone else and then called in.

We have seen real Enforcement Notices issued by Inspectors and, although complex, we can guide you through the process and help get you out of any difficulties.

Our Essential H&S Competent Person Package contains a telephone and email service that can give you immediate advice should an Inspector visit you. Call or email for more information:

Office: 020 8406 5039

Email: info@safetyisthekey.co.uk

With more than 30 years’ experience, we can help you with all aspects of your workplace health and safety.