Annual statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show 1.4 million workers were suffering from work-related ill health and around 555,000 from non-fatal injuries in 2017/18. During this period there were 144 fatal injuries at work, and 493 cases were prosecuted and resulted in a conviction. Fines from these convictions came to a total of £72.6 million.
Between October and the first few days of December, the HSE have issued 53 press releases related to fines and convictions. Below are a few examples:
Director jailed and company fined after worker killed
A waste and recycling company has been fined and its director jailed following the death of a 39-year-old worker.
The company was operating a machine used to compress recyclable and waste materials into small bales which had a defeated interlock system enabling a worker to enter the machine while it was still operating.
Polish national Zbigniew Galka had entered the baling chamber of the machine to clear a blockage of waste materials that had caused the machine to stop. The machine automatically activated, and Mr Galka suffered severe injuries and died on his way to hospital.
A joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive and Merseyside Police found that the baler’s safety interlock system had been defeated two months earlier. Poor maintenance of the machine meant it required frequent operator intervention.
Five years later HSE inspectors visited the site after being informed that the company was still using the same machine with further critical safety systems on the baler being defeated. The machine could be operated while guarding was open, meaning production could continue with the operator risking severe injury. This was noted as a serious aggravating factor by the Judge upon sentencing.
Gaskell’s (North West) Limited of Foster Street, Liverpool pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company has been fined £700,000 and ordered to pay costs of £99,886.57.
Director Jonathan Gaskell pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Phil Redman said: “This incident was completely avoidable, and it is inconceivable that Gaskells continued to operate the same dangerous machine in the way it did for as long as five years after this incident.
Companies should be aware that HSE will not accept the defeating of safety systems in order to maintain production and will not hesitate to take action against those that fall below the required standards.”
Construction company fined after worker falls from height
A construction company has been fined after an employee fell through a plasterboard ceiling onto a staircase below at a site in Basingstoke.
Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court heard how an employee of Croudace Homes Limited was working in a loft space when he fell through a plasterboard ceiling onto the staircase below. He sustained a punctured lung, six fractured ribs, a broken vertebra and a fractured shoulder.
An investigation by HSE found that there was poor planning of the pre-plaster work and a lack of understanding of the risks associated with working at height in the loft without adequate fragile surface protection.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulation 2005 and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £5355.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Sharron Cripps said: “Falls from height remain the most common cause of work-related fatalities, and serious injuries in the construction industry and the risks associated with working at height are well-known.
Working on or near fragile materials at height can be particularly dangerous, and it is very important that those in control of the work identify the risk, plan to eliminate it if possible, or where it is not possible, take appropriate precautions to safeguard workers and others. Good management will also include regular monitoring that the controls in place are keeping people safe.”
Company fined for failing to undertake asbestos assessment
A residential property development company has been sentenced after failing to carry out an asbestos survey before undertaking extensive refurbishment works.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard how Pascal Huser Design & Build Ltd undertook construction work at a property in Fulham, London. A routine Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection discovered the company failed to carry out an asbestos survey for the property.
The subsequent HSE investigation found the company removed a boarded asbestos ceiling without taking any precautions to prevent workers from being exposed to the health risk. This exposure happened because the company failed in its duty to carry out an asbestos survey for the property.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 of Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined £16000 and ordered to pay costs of £4940.40.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Jenny Morris said: “The risk of exposure to asbestos could so easily have been avoided if the company had carried out a suitable and sufficient asbestos assessment to identify the presence of asbestos within the property prior to commencing refurbishment work.
Companies should be aware HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”
Council fined after ignoring obvious risk to employees
The Health and Safety Executive said Hull City Council failed to address the “obvious risk” of employees working on ice before a worker fell and suffered broken ribs while re-laying ice at The Hull Ice Arena.
Hull Crown Court heard that on 30 August 2014 a worker was marking the lines for the ice hockey pitch at the venue on Kingston Street. He was walking towards the centre of the ice rink when he slipped and fell heavily onto the ice, suffering head injuries and breaking three ribs.
An investigation by the HSE found there had been a number of previous incidents of employees slipping and falling on ice.
Hull City Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £185,000 with £44,442.71 costs.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Denise Fotheringham commented: “No effective measures had been taken to reduce the risks of employees working on ice.
“Measures could have included providing systems of work that avoided the need for working on ice in the first place. Where this was not reasonably practicable, providing suitable footwear for working on slippery surfaces such as ice would have been an appropriate measure against a quite obvious risk.”
Former gas engineer sentenced for illegal gas work
A former gas engineer was sentenced after conducting gas work he was no longer registered or competent to do and leaving it in a dangerous condition.
Exeter Crown Court heard how Scott Lowry, who previously traded as S J Lowry Plumbing and Heating, undertook the installation of a new gas boiler at a property in Ivybridge during September 2017. A matter of hours after he had completed the installation, the boiler developed faults, and the homeowners reported these faults to him. Mr Lowry attended the address on numerous occasions after the installation but was unable to resolve the issues. A Gas Safe Registered gas engineer later inspected the work and found it to be of a poor standard, classing it as “At Risk”.
An investigation by the HSE found Mr Lowry’s membership of Gas Safe Register had expired in April 2017 and after this time, he was no longer registered to undertake gas work. Mr Lowry used his old Gas Safe Register number on the commissioning document supplied to the homeowners and did so knowing that this was no longer valid. The investigation also found Mr Lowry had left the gas boiler flue that he fitted in a dangerous state that allowed the gas boiler fumes to leak into the property and could have caused carbon monoxide poisoning.
Mr Lowry pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 3(3), 3(7) and 26(1) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. He has been sentenced to eight months prison, suspended for 18 months for each offence, to run concurrently. He was also fined £500, and ordered to pay the homeowners £500 compensation and £1,000 for the prosecution costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Simon Jones said: “Mr Lowry undertook gas work which he knew he was not registered to do. He deliberately deceived a retired couple.
The gas work that Mr Lowry undertook put the lives of the homeowners and anyone visiting them at serious risk from carbon monoxide poisoning.
All gas work must be done by a registered Gas Safe engineer to ensure the highest standards are met to prevent injury and loss of life.”
Healthcare company sentenced after patient fatally injured
A healthcare company has been fined after a vulnerable patient suffered fatal injuries during a minibus journey.
Nottingham Crown Court heard how a vulnerable patient was fatally injured when returning from an out of hours GP appointment at Nottingham Emergency Medical Centre in a minibus. Samantha Barton died after opening a door and leaping from a minibus which was travelling at speed on the A52, just outside of Nottingham.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that Elysium Healthcare (Farndon) Limited failed to have systems and procedures in place, including risk assessments, information, instruction and training which would have made sure the (fitted) child locks secured the minibus doors, so that passengers could not leave the vehicle until staff opened the doors from the outside.
Elysium Healthcare (Farndon) Limited pleaded guilty at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and has been fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £67,500.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Smith said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of this healthcare company to uphold its responsibilities to vulnerable patients by implementing simple control measures and associated safe working practices.”
Company fined after worker crushed by Forklift Truck
A scaffolding company has been sentenced for safety breaches after a worker was crushed by a forklift truck.
Leeds Magistrates Court heard how in October 2016, an employee of Whiterose Scaffolding (Leeds) Ltd was using a forklift truck in the yard when the vehicle overturned, trapping him underneath it for some time. The employee sustained serious life changing internal injuries and now lives with constant chronic pain and has severe mobility issues.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the company had failed to provide training to their employees on the safe operations of forklift trucks, which would have included the importance of wearing seatbelts. The company also failed to provide adequate supervision and monitoring of the forklift truck operators to ensure only trained drivers operated them, and that they followed safe driving techniques.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £54,270 and ordered to pay £8000 in costs.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Andrea Jones commented: “The employee’s injuries were life changing and could have been fatal. The impact has been devastating on him and his family. Other employees were put at risk as a result of the company allowing forklift trucks to be used without the appropriate training and monitoring of drivers.
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.”