21 July, 2010
A recent Health & Safety prosecution reminds employers of the Court's attitude when profit is put before safety. Clearly in the current economic climate with cuts and efficiency savings being made in both the private and public sector, organisations should take heed that the Court will impose significant fines where there is evidence of clear cost cutting at the risk of safety of workers.
The case involved TS (UK) Ltd a Rochdale based plastics manufacturer. A cleaner was crushed to death by a pallet of bags weighing in excess of one tonne. The company had allowed a culture to develop of employees getting on with the job or facing losing their job. The court was told that 15 previous near misses had been reported by the company's staff and that the company had almost no health and safety practices in operation. They did not have a member of staff trained in First Aid. The company was charged and convicted of offences under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 3(2) of the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981. They were fined £140,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,588.
Fines in these cases are not covered by any type of insurance policy so the payment has to come from the company's funds. Employers will need to ensure that health and safety issues are not compromised when consideration is being given to general costs cutting exercises.