Massive fine for employer in workplace fatal accident

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29 October, 2020

Ridwaan Omar
Partner and Head of Regulatory

Leadec Limited, a specialist industrial services company has been fined £2 million and ordered to pay £30,000 costs following a fatal injury to Joseph MacDonald, one of its employees. The company pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Mr MacDonald was cleaning waste-water pipes using high-pressure water jetting equipment at a car manufacturing site. He was struck by the end of the flexi-lance causing a fatal injury.

Whilst the company were found to have recognised the risks of this activity, they had failed to put in place appropriate measures to mitigate those risks. Nor were training or supervision up to industry and competent standard.

After the hearing HSE inspector Richard Littlefair said: "Companies must understand that high risk activities require a thorough risk assessment process and robust management systems to protect their employees from risk of serious or fatal injuries."

"It is not good enough for companies to assume they are doing all they can to control the risk just because there have been no previous incidents. Joseph McDonald's death could have been prevented had Leadec Limited had the necessary control measures and management systems in place to protect its employees."

Forbes Comments:

This matter was dealt with at the Magistrates Court who have the powers to impose unlimited fines similar to the Crown Court. The Court would have had regard to the Definitive Guidance issued by the Sentencing Council for Health and Safety Offences which came into force from the 1 February 2016.

There are various factors the Court would have had regard to including the offence category in terms of the offender's culpability, the risk of harm, the number of workers exposed to the risk of harm, the companies annual turnover to reach a starting point for a fine and to ensure that the fine imposed is proportionate.

The Company would have produced the annual accounts which most companies are required to file at Companies House to assess the size of the company. Leadec Limited based on the latest filed accounts had a turnover of over £95 million.

The Court Guidelines dependent on the size of the organisation, provides starting points for fines and category ranges based on the level of culpability and risk of harm category. A company with a turnover of over £50 million would be categorised as a Large organisation and dependent on the level of culpability and category of harm, the starting point for fines for more serious offences can be expected to be in the millions.

The level of fine would have also reflected the fact that the company would have also received credit for their early guilty plea of approximately a third reduction in sentence which reflects the culpability and risk of harm were found by the Court to be significantly high as a starting point or there were aggravating factors increasing the seriousness of the offence.

Health and Safety in the workplace should be given paramount importance by management given the sentencing powers of the Court for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

For more information contact Ridwaan Omar in our Insurance department via email or phone on 01254 222457. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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