First Capital East Limited were fined £120k plus costs of £95k after pleading guilty to breach of s2(1) HSW Act. An employee engineer was killed when working a night shift in 2003. He had been crouching to replace a headlamp on a bus in a “running line” queue for cleaning and refuelling. A contract cleaner drove the bus forward without seeing the deceased. The HSE criticised the lack of control or supervision over the site, as well as outdated risk assessments, which had been transferred from a previous site and not updated fully.
First Capital had acted promptly after the accident to update procedures, banning engineers from working on the running line, enforcing its policy of high visibility vests, and disabling steering wheels with an instruction for workers not to move buses.
The fine represented 7.2% of £1.67m pre tax profits in the financial year preceding the fine, and 0.6% of the company’s turnover of £20.8m. It is interesting to compare this with the proposed draft Sentencing Advisory Panel guidelines on corporate manslaughter. Had these been in place and a conviction secured under new Corporate Manslaughter legislation, the starting point for a fine might have been 2.5% of turnover (i.e. £520k) with scope to go to 10% (£2.08m). The Sentencing Advisory Panel’s finalised guidelines are awaited later this year.