Recently the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released annual statistics for work-related health and injuries. The HSE Summary statistics for Great Britain 2019 show the UK remains one of the safest places to work in the world, with one of the lowest standardised rates of fatal injury in the EU. Below is a summary of the injury statistics, an overview of HSE enforcement statistics, and some examples of the fines issued in 2019.
According to RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations), there were 147 workers killed in 2018/19, three more than in the previous year. There were 32 fatalities in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries, 30 in the construction industry, and 26 fatalities in the manufacturing industry. According to the HSE, the most common type of fatal accident for workers was a fall from height. The second most common involved being struck by a moving vehicle. Ninety-two members of the public were killed due to work-related activities during 2018/19. These RIDDOR figures are published as provisional at this stage and will be finalised in July 2020.
The most common cause of a non-fatal injury was a slip, trip, or fall on the same level. These account for 29% of all non-fatal injuries. The next most common injuries involved handling, lifting, or carrying and were 20% of the total. The third most common non-fatal injury involved employees being struck by a moving object, accounting for 10% of the total.
At the end of October, HSE published the latest enforcement statistics for Great Britain. The number of health and safety-related prosecution cases brought by the HSE and, in Scotland, by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) that resulted in a conviction fell from 485 in 2017-18 to 364 in 2018-19. In 2018/19 duty holders found guilty of health and safety offences were fined a total of £54.5 million. The average fine per case was £150,000, though some penalties following health and safety prosecutions have exceeded a million pounds. Below are some examples of the fines issued this year.
Manufacturer Fined £1.8m Following Falls From Height
Two workers at Karro Foods Limited suffered serious injuries while investigating a roof leak. The employees had not been made aware of roof lights in the area they were investigating, and the roof lights were not visible due to moss and dirt build-up. One roof light gave way when both men stood on it.
The company pleaded guilty to breaking the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It was fined £1,866,000 and paid £8,019 in costs.
The HSE commented: “This was a wholly avoidable incident caused by the failure of the company to provide adequate controls against the risks arising from working at height. Consideration of roof fragility and roof lights, visible or not, should be made especially on older buildings”.
Steel Company Fined £1.8m After An Explosion Killed Two
Two workers were killed and one seriously injured in an explosion at the Celsa Steelworks site in Cardiff on 18 November 2015. The employees had been working on an accumulator vessel when it exploded.
A HSE investigation revealed that a flammable atmosphere had developed as the workers drained hydraulic lubrication oil from the accumulator. An electric heater within the accumulator then ignited this atmosphere.
It was also discovered the company had failed to assess the risks its employees were exposed to when draining lubrication oil from the accumulator. Manual draining of the oil from the accumulator by a procedure referred to as a ‘blow down’ had developed through the Company employees’ local custom and practice. However, this “procedure” was not fully understood or consistently carried out by the Company’s employees, consequently exposing them to the risk of explosion.
Celsa Manufacturing (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The company was fined £1.8m and ordered to pay costs of £145,771.85.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lee Schilling said: “This incident, which had devastating consequences for all of those involved, was entirely preventable. The company failed to assess the risks of the maintenance work and identify suitable control measures to prevent an explosion.”
£1m Fine After A Worker Died During Maintenance And Repair Work
Cemex UK Operations Limited supplies bricks, block paving and concrete blocks for small, medium and large construction projects.
In May 2017, an employee was carrying out maintenance and repair work on a conveyor belt. Part of the belt ran under a centering machine. This machine has two arms attached to a mast which drops and allows the arms to push bricks together using hydraulic pressure, centering the bricks ready for packaging.
The centering machine should be isolated during maintenance. However, this was not the case, and part of the employee’s body interrupted the path of the light beam between the machine’s sensor emitter and reflector. The machine mast activated and descended, striking the worker and causing internal injuries from which he later died.
An investigation by HSE found that the company had failed to ensure the centering machine was isolated before maintenance and repair work started on the conveyor.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 and 33 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £1,000,000.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Kim Ross said: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a man, which could have easily been prevented if they had taken action to ensure the centering machine was isolated prior to the maintenance and repair work being carried out.”
£65k Fine For Poorly-Maintained Theme Park Ride
The owners of a theme park ride were fined £65,000 after nine passengers were injured when a rollercoaster derailed and crashed to the ground.
The HSE found that the owners had failed to ensure the ride was maintained in efficient working order and good repair. Failure of the axle suspension on the passenger cars was traced to inadequate weld repairs.
M & D (Leisure) Limited pleaded guilty to breaking the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. They were fined £65,000. The fine would have been £35,000 more if they had not pleaded guilty.
The HSE said: “Our investigation found the company failed to ensure the Tsunami roller coaster was properly maintained and the result of these poor maintenance procedures led directly to its catastrophic failure”.
It stressed: “It is imperative that all controllers of fairground rides have thorough maintenance procedures in place to ensure that the public are safe when they are enjoying the thrills at a fair or theme park”.
Car Firm Fined £200k Following Safety Breaches
Health and safety inspectors found evidence of serious safety breaches at two dealerships owned by Renault Retail Group UK Limited.
Between October 2015 and September 2016 the company repeatedly failed to ensure that its vehicle lifting equipment at the two sites was maintained in efficient working order and good repair. The HSE discovered the company was warned that the vehicle lifts posed a danger to users but “repeatedly failed” to ensure workers did not use the defective equipment. These failures resulted in workers using faulty vehicle lifts which put them in danger.
The company pleaded guilty to breaking regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 and regulation 10 of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) 1998. It was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,217.
Speaking after the hearing at Hendon Magistrates’ Court, HSE inspector Jane Wolfenden said: “These breaches could have led to a very serious incident, and it is fortunate nobody was injured as a result. This case highlights the importance of maintaining work equipment in a safe condition in order to protect workers from danger.”
Bus Company And Council Fined
On 13 February 2015, a passenger stepped off a bus and was run over and killed by a grab lorry as she used a pedestrian crossing at a bus station. At the time the bus station had been demolished and was being reconstructed. The grab lorry had been delivering sand to a contractor.
A HSE investigation found that visibility at the crossing was obstructed by buses that had been allowed to park on double-yellow lines between the crossings for several years. Bedford Borough Council and Cambus Limited had failed to coordinate and cooperate to manage pedestrian and vehicle interaction within the bus station. They had two joint responsibilities. One was to assess the risk to members of the public from vehicle movements within the bus station. The other was to put in place measures to reduce that risk so far as was reasonably practicable.
Bedford Borough Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The council was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £16,803.59. Cambus Limited pleaded not guilty to the same charge, but were found guilty and fined £350,000 plus costs which are still to be agreed.
Speaking after the hearing, an HSE inspector said: “There were inadequate control measures in place to segregate vehicles and pedestrians at the site and lack of proper planning in terms of pedestrian access and egress to the bus station. Hazards associated with vehicles and pedestrians in the same location, particularly the case in a facility such as a bus station in the centre of a busy town, are well known and easily controlled using reasonably practicable precautions.”