In the Courts

Here’s a quick round up of the latest health and safety prosecutions and the punishments that have been handed out by the Courts. If you look carefully there is a common theme that appears in every case – they were all preventable. A little thought, planning and a good understanding of the risks is all it takes to enable people to remain safe at work. The first case also highlights the need to consider others who may be affected by our work or premises, even if they do not work for us!!!!!

Schoolboy electrocuted – £6.5 million fine.

An 11 year-old schoolboy was killed when he went to retrieve his football, which had gone over the fence at a rail depot, in June 2017 at the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal. As he climbed on top of a stationary freight wagon he came into contact with an overhead power cable and was fatally electrocuuted. He died at the scene.  The depot operators were found guilty of health and safety offences and were fined £6.5 million. This is one of the highest fines awarded for health and safety failings. It was found that the Company had failed to properly assess the risk of unauthorised access to the site. If you operate a site you need to carefully consider everybody who could be harmed and not just your employees and visitors. Think about unauthorised visitors and trespassers and take reasonable steps to ensure that they cannot be harmed by your site or activities.

Keep vehicles and pedestrians seperated.

A man has been killed in a transport yard in Scotland. The self employed lorry driver was delivering recycled wood to the workplace in October 2017 when he was struck by a shovel loader operating in the yard. The HSE investigation found that the workplace transport risk assessment was neither suitable or sufficient. It failed to identify the risk of delivery drivers being hit by vehicles in the yard despite there being a history of previous near misses. There were no designated walkways. The Company was fined £910,000.00 for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The delivery driver would be alive today if simple controls had been put in place.

(source – HSE) – Agriculture fatalities double in a year. Figures from 1 April 2020 until 31 March 2021 show 41 people were killed in agriculture related activities, almost double the number of deaths in the previous year, which was 23. While the number of people killed fluctuates each year, the five most common causes of fatal injuries over the last five years remain – being struck by moving vehicles, killed by an animal, struck by an object, falling from height and contact with moving machinery.

Transport-related incidents, such as overturning vehicles or being struck by moving vehicles were responsible for more deaths than any other cause.

Older workers are most at risk, with more than half of workers killed aged 60 years or older. When comparing older and younger age groups, the fatal injury rate is more than four times higher for the 65s and over, compared to the 16-24 age group. The youngest person killed was a two-year-old child who died after being overcome by slurry fumes.

Don’t ignore HSE Enforcement Notices.

A director of a woodworking company has been fined for failing to comply with Enforcement Notices served to protect the health and safety of workers in his workplace.

Magistrates’ Court heard that, in November 2016 and August 2018, Classical Joinery Group Limited in Neath (now dissolved) had not complied with four Enforcement Notices. The Notices had been served to ensure compliance with controlling health risks associated with the use of hazardous substances and controlling fire and explosion risks associated with the spraying of flammable substance.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the sole director of the company and, by his consent or connivance, Classical Joinery Group Limited had failed to comply with all of the Improvement Notices served.

The Director pleaded guilty to four offences that contravened Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined £2,000, given a 12-month community order and ordered to pay costs of £6,488.36.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lee Jones, said “We do not tolerate disregard for health and safety and consider the non-compliance of HSE Enforcement Notices as a serious offence”.

Fall results in life-changing injuries. 

A construction company based in Chesterfield has been fined after a subcontractor, hired to complete work on a roof, fell from the roof joists to the concrete floor below, sustaining life changing injuries.

Nottingham Magistrates’ Court heard that, on 19 June 2019, Bobby Oldham Construction Limited (BOCL) were contracted to complete work on a domestic extension at Mona Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham. The work was to complete an extension to the rear of the property, which contained a skylight and wooden joists.  Work had progressed to the point where roof joists were being attached. The joists were accessed using a ladder, which then led to an unprotected trestle platform. The subcontractor was sat astride one of the joists when it gave way causing him to fall. He landed on the concrete floor below sustaining serious injuries including brain trauma and a broken neck.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that had the company properly considered the risks associated with this type of work, and planned the work at height more carefully the incident could have been easily avoided. The trestle platforms were missing suitable edge protection, and there was an absence of other suitable fall mitigation measures such as airbags. The work was not supervised, which would have identified the unsafe working methods, which could then be challenged by the company.

Bobby Oldham Construction Limited (BOCL) of Market Street, Staveley, Chesterfield, Derbyshire pleaded guilty of breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. They were fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,515.

CNC lathe guards by-passed.

C F Booth (Engineering) Ltd has been sentenced  after a 37-year-old worker became entangled and pulled into a CNC lathe.

Sheffield Magistrates’ Court heard that, on 9 May 2018, he was working on a Hankook CNC lathe setting up a workpiece on a jig which was held in the chuck and on the steady at the company’s site at Lyme Street, Rotherham. As he leaned over the workpiece and the steady to adjust a rear screw, the grub screws on the workpiece caught his t-shirt and he was pulled into the machine. He sustained a large open cut to his arm, 24 stitches to his lip and underwent an operation on his arm.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that machinery had interlock devices fitted but they had been by-passed/defeated so it was possible to  move guards/doors that should have been interlocked out of the way during set up, to allow access to the rotating chuck and workpiece.

C F Booth (Engineering) Ltd of Wharfe Road Doncaster South Yorkshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company has been fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £3,077 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Carol Downes commented: “This case highlights the importance of ensuring safety features are working correctly and carrying out proper risk assessments.

This incident could so easily have been avoided by ensuring safety devices are not defeated and by ensuring the correct control measures and safe working practices are in place.