A Council has been fined £1 million after unsafe work in a public place led to the serious injury of a disabled pensioner. Nottinghamshire County Council pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 following the incident at one of its country parks.
On 1 June 2015, a 71-year-old man had been participating in a group guided walk around the 150-acre rural estate. He was subsequently struck by a tractor, which was being used by council operatives to collect fallen branches for burning. A grab attachment was mounted on the vehicle for this purpose. This rendered the driver unable to see directly in front of the tractor. In failing to spot the man, the driver caused a collision which inflicted serious bruising and injuries to the individual’s arms, legs and head. The other members of the guided party had also been endangered.
An investigation by the HSE revealed that the Council had failed to implement a safe system of work for the activity and, in particular, had taken insufficient steps to segregate vehicle movements from the public. The tractor was not suitable for transporting materials over a long distance, and workers had not been adequately trained in the operation of the grab attachment. The Court held that this failure to supervise and adequately plan the work had put both Council employees and the public at risk.
The Council’s Chief Executive has since announced a renewed health and safety focus across the entire Council group. He revealed that the Council has contingency funding to meet this size of fine, and noted that a range of risks were planned for in the budget. The Council has now improved the driver training it supplies, updated its risk assessments for vehicle use, and elaborated on information provided to the public about vehicle movement in the park.