29 June, 2020
Two recent HSE prosecutions remind employers of their obligations to employees when working in potentially dangerous situations and of the fines and imprisonment that will follow if the HSE finds failings.
Chelmsford Crown Court heard that in July 2017, a worker was seriously injured when roof trusses toppled over while being moved by a crane at a site in East Mersea, Essex.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that scaffolding was not installed around and within the building to enable workers to have a safe area of work. Lifting the roof trusses in packs created risks which were not sufficiently managed.
The company and company owner had failed to plan, manage and monitor the work under their control and prosecutions proceeded against each of them.
JWB (Mersea) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. The company was fined £1,000.
The company director and owner, Jason Whiting, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He received a six-month custodial sentence, suspended for 24 months. He was required to do 240 hours of unpaid work. HSE was awarded full costs of £25,627.32.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David King, said: "Lifting the roof trusses individually and securing them permanently could have prevented this accident. HSE is keen to increase awareness of the need to plan, manage and monitor construction work and ensure the health and safety of construction workers. HSE will take enforcement action if companies do not manage health and safety on their sites, including directors."
Leeds Crown Court heard how, on 24 March 2017, Mr Javeed Ghaffar, was working on the stretch godet section of a synthetic fibre manufacturing machine at Victoria Mills, Victoria Lane, Huddersfield. He became entangled in the machine when he was performing a task of removing a lap from around the rollers. A lap occurs when fibres stick to the rollers of the machine and begin to wrap around them.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the machine was not adequately guarded. It had become custom and practice for employees to reach around the inadequate guarding in place to deal with problems of this nature
IFG Drake Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £366,850 and ordered to pay £23,993 in costs.
After the hearing, HSE inspector John Boyle commented: "This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to provide adequate guarding against dangerous parts of the machine.
"Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards"
As both HSE inspectors said in these cases, the HSE will not hesitate to take enforcement action. Fines and even imprisonment of directors can follow. Safe working practices must be implemented to prevent accidents and subsequent prosecutions. In addition compensation claims are also likely to follow, adding to the total cost of such incidents.