As we move into 2015 businesses should remain focused on ensuring the safety and welfare of their workers. The Health and Safety Executive has had a busy 2014 so businesses should be well aware of the potential for fines and criminal penalties in the event of failures. Businesses operating in the traditional trades are most vulnerable to breach of health and safety laws so should pay particular attention and seek professional advice where necessary.
Fatal injuries, site failures and fines
In 2013/2014, 133 cases of fatal injuries at work were reported according to the HSE. After a recent month long inspection, it was found that around 40% of sites failed to implement suitable protection for employees. Among the most common issues of dangerous practice were the ‘management of asbestos, failure to control exposure to harmful dusts, noise, and vibration, and insufficient welfare’; all of which could be avoided easily through better planning and management. In the month of November alone, a steady flow of suspensions and fines were administered.
Most recently, the Northern Derbyshire Magistrate’s court heard on 27 November 2014, that an unregistered plumber carried out gas work and failed to take due diligence by not carrying out safety checks. It was found to be a deliberate breach of Regulations 3(3) and 26 (9) of the Gas Safety Regulations 1998. He was therefore imprisoned, suspended and also subject to unpaid community work.
A similar case arose where a self employed Hertfordshire builder was fined after installing boilers dangerously with no license. These cases send a warning to the public to ensure that only Gas Safe registered engineers are used. By simply asking the worker for identification before hand and carrying out annual safety checks on appliances, the risks of dangerous and illegal gas work can be avoided.
Cases of corporate manslaughter are usually borne out of the most striking incidents of health and safety failure. In a recent example, a Middlesex property development firm and a Buckinghamshire contractor was ordered to pay £180,000 after a worker was killed instantly due to safety failings. These failings included having no safety measures in place to prevent people or vehicles falling into an excavation, none of the workers on site had relevant construction experience and the seat belt of the victim was not in operation at the time of the incident; a practice deemed to be the usual. In this instance, a range of safety failings contributed to the victim’s death.
Every new health and safety case emphasises the responsibility that employers have to maintain safe working environments for their employees, customers and other people they come into contact with. In many cases tragic incidents, fines or imprisonment could have been avoided through complying with basic procedures, carrying out simple maintenance, or providing better training for workers.
Cases also highlight the fact that there is no excuse to allow operations to continue without suitable health and safety practices, when existing industry standards are set out clearly and precisely. If you are uncertain about which elements of health and safety law apply to your specific business, you should seek expert legal advice.
For specialist health and safety advice contact Peter Gourri by email PGourri@rollingsons.co.uk or telephone 0207 611 4848.