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Health, Safety and Environmental – September 2017

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

03/10/2017

Sentencing update, including £2.5 million Iceland Foods fine; launch of ‘Go Home Healthy’ national campaign.

Sentencing update – Iceland Foods handed £2.5 million fine

Iceland Foods Limited was fined a total of £2.5 million after a fatal accident at a store in Rotherham.  A contractor fell almost three metres through a suspended ceiling when visiting the store to replace filters in an air conditioning unit which was located on a platform above the ceiling.  An environmental health investigation found that there were no barriers in place to prevent falls, and the area in front of the access ladder was restricted and had several tripping hazards.  No risk assessment had been carried out by the company.

Just two weeks earlier, bakery firm Greencore Grocery Limited was fined £1 million after a self-employed contractor died after falling from a stepladder while carrying out electrical work.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company failed to properly plan the activity from the beginning.  The HSE inspector said: “Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work related fatalities in Great Britain, the risks associated with working at height are well known. Work at height regulations require that all work at height is properly planned and appropriate access is provided. If Greencore had carried this out this death could have been prevented”.

These significant fines serve as yet a further stark reminder to businesses of the consequences of not getting health and safety right.

In other sentencing news:

  • An aerospace manufacturer was fined £800,000 after an employee suffered serious leg injuries when he fell into the path of an advancing work platform so that his leg was trapped and dragged along the floor. The HSE investigation found that the company had failed to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery.
  • United Utilities was fined £666,000 after pleading guilty to polluting a river in Greater Manchester with raw sewage. The pollution had a significant impact on fish stocks and water quality. The Environment Agency’s Environment Manager for Greater Manchester said that the Environment Agency “take pollution incidents very seriously and this case should send a strong message to companies of the potential consequences if they damage the environment”.
  • A company was fined £450,000 after a 19-year old worker died when the fork lift truck he was driving overturned and crushed him. The HSE inspector said: “This tragic incident could have easily been prevented. The company’s management of fork lift truck driving operations and its failure to provide various measures to ensure the safety of the external yard area coupled with the lack of safe driver measures, such as wearing a seat belt, exposed employees to serious safety risks”. In a similar incident, another company was fined £300,000 after a worker was fatally crushed when the fork lift truck he was driving overturned. The truck had run over a loose tyre in the road. The HSE investigation found that the company had no policy in place instructing workers to wear seatbelts when operating fork lift trucks, and if the tyres had been stored securely this would have reduced the risk of the truck overturning.
  • A roofing contractor was given an eight month suspended prison sentence and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service after health and safety risk managers at North Yorkshire County Council saw unsafe scaffolding from their office window. Two workers were at risk of falling approximately seven metres from an unprotected edge on the roof of the building. The HSE inspector said: “Work at height, such as roof work, is a high-risk activity that accounts for a high proportion of workplace serious injuries and fatalities each year”. Breach of work at height regulations is a recurring theme in health and safety incidents.
  • A recycling company and its two directors were fined after “multiple safety failings”. Numerous enforcement notices had been issued to both the company and the directors in relation to work equipment, work at height and electrical matters, among other things. The company was fined £83,000. In addition to receiving fines totalling £17,500 between them, one director was sentenced to 26 weeks’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months, while the other was given a 150 hours community order. This comes at a time when the HSE is carrying out a programme of unannounced inspections to review health and safety standards in waste and recycling businesses across the country. The industry is a priority sector for the HSE, with a statistically higher rate of workplace injury and work-related ill health than other sectors.
  • A construction company and project manager were fined after the HSE identified a number of serious health and safety failings at two project sites, including unsafe work at height, unstable deep excavations and inadequate arrangements for planning, managing and monitoring. The company was fined £100,000 and the project manager £15,000. The HSE inspector said: “Principal contractors and their managers have a duty to ensure risks to workers are managed throughout the construction phase of projects. This case serves as a reminder to those responsible of the importance of ensuring construction work is properly planned, managed and monitored so that serious risks are identified and eliminated or controlled. It was only by good fortune that someone was not seriously injured or killed in this instance”.

HSE launches ‘Go Home Healthy’ national campaign

On 18 September 2017, the HSE launched its ‘Go Home Healthy’ campaign, with the stated aim of reducing cases of work-related ill-health “by shining a light on the causes and encouraging employers to do the right thing to protect their workers’ health”.  According to new HSE research, more than two-fifths of businesses report a rise in cases of long-term ill-health, with the majority stating that tackling the problem is a priority within their organisation.

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