This quarterly update provides a summary of a selection of news stories relating to health and safety investigations and prosecutions, as well as key corporate manslaughter cases, published in the period January 2023 – March 2023.
BA SUBSIDIARY FINED £230,000 FOLLOWING A NON-FATAL INCIDENT
Following an investigation by the HSE, British Airways Maintenance Cardiff Ltd pleaded guilty at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court to breaching s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (the Act). The investigation and prosecution followed a non-fatal accident on 10 November 2019 at its Cardiff facility where an employee fell from height while inspecting aeroplane wings. The employee was placed into an induced coma for three weeks, after suffering major injuries, including numerous skull fractures, fractures to his ribs, scapula, vertebrae and collar bone, as well as a brain haemorrhage. He has been unable to return to work.
The HSE investigation found that the company had failed to adequately analyse the risks and prevent the removal of guardrail safety barriers or ensure the replacement of safety barriers.
The company was fined £230,000 and ordered to pay costs of £21,623.
M6 WORKS BREACHES RESULT IN £4.4M FINE FOR CIVIL ENGINEERING FIRM
Following an investigation by the HSE, Kier, a civil engineering firm, was fined £4,415,000 and ordered to pay £87,759.60 in costs after pleading guilty to breaches of Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, as well as the Regulation 13 (1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.
This followed two separate incidents wherein overhead powerlines were struck by workers, causing cables to land in the path of passing vehicles. The two incidents took place between junctions 16 and 18 near Sandbach, Cheshire, during overnight works related to part of the smart motorway scheme in the area.
The first incident took place on 28 March 2018, where the HSE found that inadequate planning permitted an unsuitable vehicle to be used, which resulting with the raised loading bucket of a truck severing an 11kV overhead powerline. The cable was re-energised a number of times while it was lying on the motorway with passing vehicles, following the company’s failure to notify Scottish Power. The HSE also found that there was no task-specific risk assessment for workers, which contributed to the breach of Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Act
The second incident took place on 21 January 2019, when the crane arm attached to a lorry loader struck an overhead cable, leading to an unmarked 11kV powerline being hit and snapped by an oncoming lorry. Workers said they were unaware of the overhead hazards, which the HSE found to be a breach of the Act.
In the second incident, the workers said that they were unaware of the overhead hazards.
£400,000 FINE FOR CARE-HOME PROVIDER AFTER CHILD CRUSHED BY FALLING TREE
The failure of a care home to adequately maintain trees on its property has resulted in catastrophic injuries for an eight-year-old girl and a £400,000 fine for Bupa Care Homes.
The care provider pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Following an HSE investigation, it was found that the company failed to implement a strategy to manage trees, including adequate risk assessment, proactive surveys, inspections, and monitoring of trees. This would serve to identify remedial works to be done, and thereby obviate any risk of harm caused by falling trees.
The failure to have a robust strategy in place at Oak Lodge Care Home, Southampton had serious consequences for the young girl. Whilst jogging with her father on the pavement outside the care-home on 8 July 2021, a tree fell and crushed her, resulting in leg amputation. It was later found that the tree was diseased with a common fungus, and was likely rotting for several years prior to the accident.
The company pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £400,000. The company was also ordered to pay costs of £3,275 and a victim surcharge.
DIVING INSTRUCTOR SENTENCED FOR HEALTH AND SAFETY FAILINGS
An HSE investigation has led to the sentencing of a technical diving instructor, Lance Palmer, on 25 January 2022, following the drowning of a student during a training dive.
In June 2018, the 55-year-old student died during an entry level Technical Diving International (TDI) Closed Circuit Rebreather Course at Stoney Cove, Leicester. The dive was overseen and supervised by Lance Palmer. Mr Palmer was found to have: failed to adequately maintain and check on Mr Clarke’s breathing apparatus; failed to closely monitor Mr Palmer which lead to him failing to notice audible and visual alarms; exceeded permitted maximum diving depths, contrary to TDI rules; and failed to ensure there was a suitable qualified rescue diver present.
Mr Palmer plead guilty to breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was sentenced to 50 hours of unpaid work and ordered pay costs of £3,085.
£120,000 FINE FOR COMPANY AFTER WORKER SUFFERS FATAL FALL
PTSG Electrical Services Limited received a fine of £120,000 following the death of an employee, who fell from the roof of a Warrington building site.
The incident took place on 24 February 2021, when Dennis Vincent and another worker were using ropes on the front of an office block to install a lightning protection system. As Mr Vincent was lowering equipment from the roof, both he and the frame to which the rope was attached, fell to the ground.
An investigation led by the HSE found that the company failed to adequately assess the risks involved, nor were sufficient instructions provided to the operatives on getting the rope access equipment onto and off the roof safely.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was sentenced to a fine of £120,000 with £5448.51 in costs ordered to be paid.
£180,000 FINE FOR NHS BOARD AFTER PATIENT DEATH
Following an investigation by the HSE, NHS Highland received a fine of £180,000 following the death of a patient whilst receiving treatment in hospital
Following a suspected fall at home, 78-year-old Colin Lloyd was admitted to the surgical ward of Raigmore Hospital, Inverness on 6 February 2019. Mr Lloyd sustained bleeding on the brain following three additional falls on 6, 12 and 14 February 2019 whilst in hospital. He died from fatal head trauma on 16 February 2019.
An investigation led by the HSE found that NHS Highland, who are responsible for Raigmore Hospital, failed to provide sufficient nursing staff to maintain a 1:1 ratio of care. The health board pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and were fined £180,000.
£388,000 FINE FOR CDM REGULATIONS AND WORKING AT HEIGHT BREACHES AFTER WORKER FELL THROUGH ROOF
On 19 July 2019, a roofer working at height sustained a broken ankle after falling more than 20 feet and through a roof light.
Brackley Industrial Maintenance Ltd, was the sub-contractor of principal contractor, STP Construction Ltd, to carry out roofing works at a retail unit in Bletchley.
An HSE investigation found STP Construction Ltd failed to properly plan access arrangements for workers getting to and working on the roof. This resulted in workers having to pass by fragile materials before they could use the fall arrest system. Brackley Industrial Maintenance Ltd was also found to have failed to ensure measures to prevent or stop falls.
On 10 February 2023, STP Construction Ltd pleaded guilty to contravening regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. The company was fined £320,000 and ordered to pay £8,538 in costs. Brackley Industrial Maintenance Ltd pleaded guilty to contravening regulation 9(2) of the Work at Height Regulations, receiving a fine of £68,000. It was also ordered to pay £8,538 in costs.
FARMER PROSECUTED AFTER WORKER INJURED BY OVERTURNED DUMPER
In February 2023, farmer Richard Palfrey pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 after a 19-year-old worker suffered serious head injuries when a six-tonne dumper overturned.
The 19-year-old was working alongside a 16-year-old. They were assisting Mr Palfrey in the excavation of land on his farm. Mr Palfrey failed to ask their ages or their experience before they started work. Shortly afterwards, the dumper overturned as the 19-year-old sought to drive it up a steep incline. The worker ended up in intensive care, but made a full recovery.
An investigation led by the HSE found that the steep route Mr Palfrey told the two workers to take was inappropriate, being steeper than the dumpers were designed to work with. The truck that rolled had an inaccessible seat belt which was covered with a fertilizer bag.
Mr Palfrey was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,324.40.
ANNUAL SCIENCE REVIEW PUBLISHED BY HSE, WITH FOCUS ON NET ZERO AND SAFETY
The latest Annual Science Review of the HSE has been published. The 2023 review centres on addressing safety challenges presented by the UK’s goal of moving to Net Zero by 2050.
This year’s review emphasises a number of areas where HSE scientists are protecting safety, including in relation to the use of lithium-ion batteries, testing hydrogen-fuelled vehicles in tunnels and the use of hydrogen as an aircraft fuel.
£2.3m fine for Exolum Pipeline System Ltd after workers exposed to risk of death
An investigation led by the HSE has led to a £2.3 million fine for Exolum Pipeline System Ltd for safety breaches. This follows exposure of employees to a risk of death while excavating on a leaking pipeline which contained petrol, near Holme, North Lincolnshire.
The incident took place from 7 and 10 March 2018. The risks arising from the excavation work and exposure were held to be significant. An unknown defect on the previous repair of the pipeline which contained petroleum under high pressure had the potential to form a flammable cloud extending over several metres from the work area. This caused those in the immediate vicinity to potentially be covered in a heavy spray of petrol and engulfed in petrol vapour. If ignition had occurred before the area could be evacuated, there would have been a very high risk of death or serious injury.
The investigation led by the HSE found that the company failed to properly identify and control the risks conducive with carrying out a pipeline repair.
The company was found guilty of an offence contrary to Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, as well as an offence contrary to Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £2.3 million and ordered to pay £157,431 in costs.
FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH HSE NOTICES LEADS TO £150,000 FINE
BSP (Knockholt) Limited, a waste company based in Kent, was fined £150,000 for breaches related to compliance with health and safety regulations.
An August 2020 investigation led by the HSE found that employees who were manually sorting through waste in the company’s yard near Orpington were exposed to a risk of being struck by heavy machinery moving next to them. There were also inadequate rest facilities for employees’ use during break times.
The company was served with two improvement notices in September 2020. The deadline with compliance was decided to be October. However, a further site inspection in February 2021 found that the company had failed to comply with either notice.
It was fined £140,000 for failing to comply with a notice related to the segregation of vehicles and pedestrians, which was served under regulation 17(1) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. It was fined a further £10,000 for a notice served under regulation 25(1) of the same regulations regarding welfare facilities. In addition, costs of £2,459 and a victim surcharge of £190 were awarded.
GARDEN COMPANY FINED AFTER DEATH OF EMPLOYEE
Kelkay Limited, a gardening landscaping company based in East Yorkshire, received a fine of £600,000 after the death of an employee who was loading a lorry.
The incident took place at the company’s site in Pollington, East Yorkshire. The individual was operating a forklift truck, and died after the lorry he was loading was moved by the driver, pulling the forklift truck over and trapping him underneath.
An investigation led by the HSE found the company’s risk assessment failed to account for the possibility of lorries moving during loading, and that the systems of work provided for ensuring that vehicles were not moved during loading activities were inadequate.
The company was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay £20,848.71 in costs.