Star Wars

Foodles Production pleaded guilty to two counts of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (England and Wales) in Milton Keynes Magistrates Court. The first breach concerned a breach of duty in relation to employees and the second related to a breach over people not employed by the Company.

The accident occurred in Pinewood Studios on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Harrison Ford suffered a broken leg and had to be airlifted to hospital following the accident. The alleged accident occurred when the actor pressed a button on a door of the Millennium Falcon spaceship believing that the button was not “live”. This however was not the case; it was operational and connected to a hydraulic lift which operated the door to the spaceship. When the door opened the actor was knocked to the ground, and his left leg pinned to the floor by the door. A representative from the Health and Safety Executive said that the force was strong in the door and was equivalent to the weight of a small car.

Foodles production are due to be sentenced later this year in relation to the breaches.

Aer Lingus

On 5 November 2014, John Murray tragically passed away following a fall from a loading bay at an Aer Lingus cargo warehouse at Dublin Airport. Mr Murray was working for a logistics company and had attended at the warehouse to collect a package. Mr Murray fell from the loading bay and sustained serious head injuries. The Company admitted exposing non-employees to risks, as a practise had developed whereby cargo drivers regularly gained access to the loading bay by climbing on and off a 3ft high loading dock.

In March 2017, Aer Lingus Limited pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 12 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, contrary to Section 77(2). Following the guilty plea, Judge Martin Nolan of the Central Criminal Court imposed a fine of €250,000 on Aer Lingus noting that there was an “inherent danger” in the practice of taking the shortest route by hopping down from the 3ft high loading dock. In addition, evidence was provided that Aer Lingus had previously identified this practice as a risk, had developed a written procedure to avoid such an incident occurring but failed to implement the written procedures dealing with driver access to the loading bays.

Section 12 of the Act states that every employer shall manage and conduct his or her undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that in the course of the work being carried on, individuals at the place of work (not being his or her employees) are not exposed to risks to their safety, health or welfare.

Hard lesson for concrete manufacturer

Kilsaran concrete have been ordered to pay a fine of €1m by the Court of Appeal instead of an original amount of €125,000 imposed by the Circuit Criminal Court. The DPP appealed the leniency of the fine which was originally imposed in 2016.

The case arose out of an accident that occurred in 2011 where an employee was tragically killed when using a machine that moulded pre-cast concrete. Evidence was provided at the original hearing that Kilsaran concrete had bought the machine to manufacture pre-cast and standardised products, however, the equipment had been modified by an employee in order to make it more efficient and cost-effective. Kilsaran concrete pleaded guilty to the offence of failing to manage and conduct work activities in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of the employees of an undertaking. In this case their negligence resulted in personal injury to an employee, contrary to the 2005 Act.

At the original hearing, evidence had been provided by the most experienced operative in the plant that he had raised concerns over the modifications and procedures for the use of the machine. In addition, another employee had provided evidence that he had been involved in a “near miss” where he was almost killed.

The DPP appealed the leniency of the fine on the following grounds;

  1. Insufficient account was taken by the Circuit Criminal Court of the inherent and obvious danger presented by the system of work and the particular work practice adopted;
  2. There is a clear distinction between a system which presents inherent and obvious danger and an accident occurring due to an isolated instance of human error;
  3. A number of features of the case were indicative of deliberate and conscious taking of an unjustified risk by Kilsaran as opposed to an omission through negligence or inadvertence, namely;
    1. Operatives being placed inside a safety cage;
    2. Operatives being required to work in close proximity to dangerous moving machinery;
    3. Operatives being required to work on an unsuitable surface and at an unsuitable platform;
    4. Reliance being placed on another operative to disable part of the machine at the start of the shift to remove the risk.

The DPP further submitted that the practice that had developed over a period of 12 months was the culmination of continuous and deliberate breaches of safety requirements over a prolonged period, resulting in the death of an employee.

The Court of Appeal considered the sentence imposed under four main headings;

  1. The assessment of the gravity of the case;
  2. The allowance made for mitigation;
  3. Proportionality in the overall sentencing process;
  4. Sentencing policy issues.

The Court was satisfied that the gravity of the case and significant culpability and substantial harm done, merited a headline sentence of a fine of €2m, with a 50% discount for mitigating factors such as the company’s cooperation during the investigation, an early guilty plea and prompt payment of compensation to all involved in the accident. The final sentence was a fine of €1m.