Recent health and safety cases highlighted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) once again stress the importance of businesses properly managing health and safety risks in the workplace.
Businesses large and small should not leave health and safety to chance. Appropriate health and safety policies must be designed, implemented and enforced while robust insurance policies should be taken out to cover unexpected accidents.
Any business unsure of its health and safety obligations should seek professional advice.
Recent Examples of Health and Safety Breaches
In Stonehaven, an animal feed company was fined £240k when a lorry driver was crushed to death on its premises.
David Leslie was crushed by 1.5 tonnes of feed, in a bin weighing 600kg, when a forklift driver working for East Coast Viners Grain LLP lost control of the load. A subsequent investigation by the HSE made clear that East Coast Viners Grain LLP were not operating a safe system of work and further that operators such as its forklift drivers, were left to carry out the work any way they saw fit.
The court found the defendant guilty of breaching s3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which attaches a duty on employers not to unreasonably subject non-employees to risk.
In Birmingham, a lettings agency was fined £2k (plus costs), following its admittance of guilt in breaching the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and s3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. MT Properties Central Ltd had failed to ensure the necessary gas safety checks were made, thereby risking tenants’ lives.
Furthermore, in Suffolk a gas engineer was given a suspended sentence of 18 weeks, after he incorrectly serviced a gas-fired heater, which in turn eventually left a tenant unconscious. The HSE prosecuted Greg Ranson, a 37 year-old Gas Safe registered engineer, after hospital tests confirmed the man living in the house had suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Working at Height Safely
In Liverpool, two firms were sentenced for health and safety failings, after a worker fell through the roof of a former factory.
Peter Tracey had been removing asbestos roof sheets when he stepped onto a fragile panel, falling through the roof a full five metres. Construction Contracting UK Ltd and Local Asbestos Services Ltd were fined £12k and £8k respectively, whilst being ordered to pay £23k and £6k in costs. Although both firms had prepared clear risk assessments and therefore drawn method statements identifying safe systems of work, neither firm implemented these practices.
In light of these recent failings, it’s clear that firms of all shapes and sizes are still failing to recognise the real costs in failing to implement a safe system of work.
Not only are employers liable for these issues, and thus endure the costs in time and on account of the court process, but they also suffer long-term reputational damage and a loss of goodwill with employees or other stakeholders.
In this case, prevention is the best cure. Only the design of a safe system of work in conjunction with effective implementation will ensure insofar as it is possible a low risk work environment.