Health, Safety and Environmental – July 2017

Two Health & Safety Inspectors in hard hats overlooking some papers Print publication


£8 million Tesco fine; focus on £1 million-plus fines; product recalls and safety and more.

Tesco given £8 million fine for serious pollution incident…

In June 2017, Tesco Stores Limited was ordered to pay over £8 million in fines and costs following a serious pollution incident in July 2014, in which approximately 23,500 litres of petrol escaped from a petrol filling tank at a Tesco-operated petrol station causing a “massive impact” on the local community and environment.  A joint investigation by the Environment Agency (EA) and others found that the incident “resulted from Tesco’s failure to address a known issue with part of the fuel delivery system and an inadequate alarm system and was compounded by poor emergency procedures.”  See the EA’s full press release here.  An EA Environment Manager said that the sentencing “sends out a clear message to anyone whose recklessness causes serious pollution to the environment – we will be relentless in our investigations and take action wherever needed.”  The company pleaded guilty in relation to offences under both health and safety and environmental legislation, attracting fines of £5 million and £3 million respectively.

… as £1 million-plus fines continue to bite

In recent weeks we have continued to see a steady flow of yet more fines of £1 million or more imposed for health and safety offences:

  • A Sheffield steel company was fined £1 million after a worker was severely burnt, suffering life-changing injuries, following the explosion of an oxygen pipe.
  • A chemical company was fined £1.2 million after two people suffered minor injuries when an explosion occurred during the operation of a newly installed hydrochloric acid burner. The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 1999.

In both of these cases, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) inspector involved said: “This incident could have been avoided if simple checks had been carried out. Duty holders should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the require standard.

  • Warburtons Limited was fined £1.9 million after an agency worker became trapped against a running conveyor belt when cleaning parts of the bread line. HSE inspectors found that the machine could have been fitted with guarding to prevent access. This follows hot on the heels of the company’s £2 million health and safety fine earlier this year after a worker fell from the top of a mixer.
  • United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust was fined £1 million after a patient died following a collapse onto an exposed metal post on the standing aid hoist being used to support him. An HSE investigation found that staff had not received effective training and monitoring and unsafe practices had developed.
  • Aldi Stores Limited was fined £1 million after a delivery driver was injured at one its stores while using a powered pallet truck. Council officers found that Aldi’s training ought to have had a more formal structure and the Council said that the “level of fine reflects the seriousness of the failings within the company.”

Organisations across all sectors should take note that this brings to 28 the number of fines of £1 million or more imposed by courts in England and Wales for health and safety offences since the new sentencing guidelines were introduced in February 2016.

HSE publishes annual figures for fatal accidents in the workplace

The HSE has released annual data concerning work-related fatalities, showing that the period between April 2016 and March 2017 was the second lowest year on record.  The long-term downward trend in the number of fatalities has shown signs of levelling off in recent years.  The construction sector accounts for the largest share.

Product recalls and safety – working group sets out recommendations

On 19 July 2017, the government-backed working group on product recalls and safety – tasked with developing options to improve the system of product recalls and safety – published a report setting out its recommendations.  See the press release with a link through to the full report.  The government is expected to formally respond in the autumn.

Food Standards Agency (FSA) publishes plans to change food regulation

On the same day, the FSA published a paper setting out its proposals for transforming the way food businesses are regulated in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  These include an enhanced system of registration for all food businesses, on the basis of which the FSA will apply proportionate, risk-based controls.

New rules on food and soft drink advertising to children now in force

New rules banning the advertising of high fat, salt or sugar food or drink products in children’s media came into force on 1 July 2017. The rules apply to all non-broadcast media, including social media.  The Committee of Advertising Practice has published a toolkit for businesses to aid compliance.