Health and Safety forms a vital part of any business and getting it right is crucial, otherwise you’ll run the risk of facing financial penalties and suffering reputational damage.

Here are two examples of why it matters to get things right.

On 30 June 2014 a worker at R Plevin & Sons Ltd, Paul Littlewood, was manually un-sheeting a lorry trailer when he fell four metres from the work platform at a waste wood recycling centre at Hazlehead. He subsequently, died from his injuries.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and found that Mr Littlewood’s death could, “easily have been prevented”. They found the trailer access to the work platform was only protected by a single manually fastened wire rope which was fastened to a vertical post with a carabiner. However, the wire rope was hanging loose and the access point was unprotected at the time of the incident.

The investigation identified that the company had not carried out a sufficient assessment for sheeting and un-sheeting trailers. If they had done so they should have identified the H&S risks and they could have instigated preventative measures to protect their workers for example by installing automatic sheeting or self-closing gates. The company also failed to provide working at height training.

On 13 November 2017, the company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and was fined £216,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £31,266.54 to the HSE.

If you have employees who work at height it’s recommended that you take a look at the Health and Safety Executive Guidance on Working at Height found here.

The second example:

A worker at Mid-UK Recycling Ltd, Karlis Pavasars, was cleaning near a conveyor belt when the recycling line was switched on and the worker was dragged onto the conveyor, through a trommel and into an industrial waste shredder. He died from his injuries.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated this fatal incident and found that the fixed gate that fenced the area off and prevented access to the conveyor had been removed for a number of weeks prior to the incident. As a result workers could freely gain access to the conveyor area.

The management of the company were aware that the gate was not in place as it had been reported to them days before the incident.

However, immediate action to resolve the situation was not taken and the resultant consequences had far reaching impact on the Directors of the Company.  Section 37 of the HSAW states that health and safety breaches “…committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”

At the proceedings the following occurred:

  • The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) and was fined £880,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £100,000 to the HSE.
  • The managing director, Christopher Mountain, pleaded guilty to breaching section 37 of HSWA and was given a 20 week prison sentence suspended for two years and fined £50,000.
  • The former operations director, Alan Munson, pleaded guilty to breaching section 37 of HSWA and was given a 20 week prison sentence suspended for two years.

If you’d like to do further reading on your Health and Safety obligations as a business owner, please follow this link.

If you require further advice on business law matters, you may wish to join our community; on elXtr we have guides and documents to help you navigate everyday business issues, including employment and health and safety issues.

If you have access to the legal helpline and want to discuss your specific circumstances with a qualified solicitor or barrister, please get in touch with them.

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