A major bread maker has been fined £2 million after a worker slipped and fell from an industrial mixing machine. The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was handed a £2 million fine for failing to control the risk of falls from height.
The worker had been carrying out a routine cleaning task at one of the firm's West Midlands sites in November 2013. He lost his footing at the top of the mixer, causing him to fall two metres to the ground below. An HSE investigation revealed that workers were often unbalanced when carrying out this task. It was common practice amongst the workforce to brace themselves against the mixer as a sole means of fall prevention. Wolverhampton Crown Court was told that workers were not adequately supervised and no training had been given on how the mixer ought to be cleaned at height.
The high fine imposed in this case is one of several substantial sentences for health and safety offences already witnessed this year. On the same day, a national car manufacturer was fined £900,000 after an incident on its production line left one worker requiring a leg amputation and two other employees in receipt of minor injuries. During the incident of February 2015 (also at a West Midlands plant), a high-end luxury sports car was being driven toward the start of the production line when the driver lost control of the vehicle. This caused it to collide with the rear of a queue of parked vehicles. A worker was crossing the production line when the resulting four-car shunt occurred, causing him to become trapped between the second and third cars. The company was found guilty of breaching section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
In both cases, the HSE was of the view that insufficient steps had been taken to ensure workers were familiar with safety procedures. Such perceived failings now risk greater sentences than ever: since its introduction in England and Wales in February 2016, the Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline has resulted in an increasing number of fines into the millions.