June and July have seen several companies hit with large fines for health and safety breaches and a report stating fines for health and safety breaches have risen to an all-time high.
Corporate Fines For Health and Safety Breaches Rise To £57.3 Million
Thompson Reuters has revealed that corporate fines for health and safety breaches have increased by 18% over the past year to £57.3 million in 2017, from £48.5 million in 2016.
The sum of an average health and safety fine rose 34%, from £232,451 in 2016 to £311,343 twelve months later.
This trend confirms the upward drift of health and safety fines predicted by experts following the passing of the Sentencing Council's Definitive Guideline for Health and Safety Offences, Corporate. Manslaughter and Food Safety.[PM1]
Welsh dairy processor fined £200K
A worker at a Welsh dairy plant suffered from burns to 27% of his body when a pneumatic valve opened and covered him with hot steam and caustic. The employee was modifying pipework at the Wrexham plant at the time.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and were fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,267.20.
The HSE investigation found the company had been relying on informal risk control processes and procedures, which were no longer adequate for the present size of the business.
It is imperative that organisations continually review and update their health and safety systems, so they are suitable for each stage of the company as it expands.
Preston eatery fined £15,000 for health and safety breaches
New Element 2016 Ltd which runs the New Element Restaurant in Preston was fined £15,000 after an inspection revealed the company had no written health and safety policy or risk assessment, and it was found a meat grinding machine did not have a guard.
In addition, there were concerns regarding electrical safety, dirt, and slip and trip hazards.
District Judge Gerald Chalk said: "There is no evidence that anyone suffered injury from the offences, nevertheless the potential for injury was very high". He stated the organisation did not appreciate the need to have a safety regime at all and the other two offences were "clear and obvious risks", meaning the company’s culpability is very high.
Section 2 (3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act reads:
“….it shall be the duty of every employer to prepare and as often as may be appropriate revise a written statement of his general policy with respect to the health and safety at work of his employees and the organisation and arrangements for the time being in force for carrying out that policy, and to bring the statement and any revision of it to the notice of all of his employees”.
This case illustrates that although it may be challenging for owner/operators of SMEs to prepare and regularly revise risk assessments and a written health and safety statement, failure to do so can result in crippling fines.
Construction giant Kier, fined £200,000
An employee for a subcontractor hired by Kier Group to repair a roof at a primary school suffered life-changing injuries after he fell whilst working.
An HSE investigation found the roof accessed by the injured worker used a ladder which was not secured, was missing its rubber feet and stability bar, and was not long enough. In addition, it was found the company had not vetted subcontractors effectively and did not correctly implement its own work-at-height policies and procedures.
Construction News reported that HSE inspector Charles Linfoot said:
“Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of serious injury and death in the UK.
“All work at height, including that of subcontractors, should be properly planned, organised and monitored to ensure that it is undertaken by workers who are sufficiently trained and supervised using appropriate equipment”.
The company was fined £200,000. After pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The company has since made changes to rectify the failings, stating:
“Operating a safe and sustainable business is Kier’s number one priority and we pride ourselves on having developed an industry-leading reputation for our rigorous approach to managing safety issues.
“On this occasion our usual high standards were not met and we will continue to ensure we focus on making improvements and introducing innovative solutions to health and safety challenges”.
Fisher Scoggins Waters is a London based law firm with expertise in construction, manufacturing, and engineering law. If you have any questions about health and safety matters or require an emergency response to an incident, please phone Michael Appleby on 0207 993 8264.