Health and Safety – October 2019Print publication
Multiple £1 million-plus fines issued in just one month; other sentencing news; HSE annual injury and ill-health statistics.
Multiple £1 million-plus fines issued in just one month
Logistics company DHL was fined £2.6 million after car and truck tyres fell through an internal office roof at a warehouse in Coventry, fatally injuring one staff member, seriously injuring another and leaving two others walking wounded. An investigation by Coventry City Council found that the company fundamentally and systematically failed to manage health and safety at the site and the accident was the product of a multi-layered systemic failure of the company’s management.
A steel company was fined £1.8 million, and ordered to pay costs of over £145,000, after two employees were killed and another seriously injured when an accumulator vessel they were working on exploded. The inspector from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that the company had failed to assess the risks of the maintenance work and identify suitable control measures to prevent an explosion. The HSE investigation found that the procedure used had developed through the company employees’ local custom and practice, and was not fully understood or consistently carried out by employees, exposing them to the risk of explosion.
A waste recycling company was fined £1.275 million after an employee lost part of his arm while removing waste from a blocked conveyor. The HSE inspector said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided had the company ensured that the system designed to keep people away from dangerous machinery was properly maintained. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards”.
Other sentencing news
A local council and bus company were fined a total of £650,000 after a bus passenger was run over and fatally injured by a lorry when walking across a pedestrian crossing at a bus station undergoing construction work. The HSE inspector said: “There were inadequate control measures in place to segregate vehicles and pedestrians at the site and lack of proper planning in terms of pedestrian access and egress to the bus station. Hazards associated with vehicles and pedestrians in the same location, particularly the case in a facility such as a bus station in the centre of a busy town, are well known and easily controlled using reasonably practicable precautions”.
Ferry operator Stena Line Limited was fined £400,000 after a worker was seriously injured by a moving vehicle at the company’s port terminal in Birkenhead. The HSE investigation found that there was no consideration of physical segregation of pedestrian operatives from moving vehicles when vessels were being unloaded. The company had failed to adequately assess the risks to pedestrians from moving vehicles and consequently put in place effective control measures leading to a safe system of work.
HSE releases annual injury and ill-health statistics
On 30 October 2019, the HSE released its latest annual injury and ill-health statistics report. Among other things, there were 1.4 million new or long-standing work-related ill-health cases in 2018/19. Of these, 44% concerned stress, depression or anxiety. During that period, 28.2 million working days were lost due to work-related ill-health and non-fatal workplace injuries. Of the working days lost to ill-health, 54% concerned stress, depression or anxiety. According to the report, the rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety has shown signs of increasing in recent years. In 2017/18, the cost of workplace injury and new cases of work-related ill-health was £15 billion, of which £3 billion was borne by employers. Construction remains one of the high-risk sectors for sustaining work-related injury. Education, public administration and defence, and human health and social work, are the industries with ill-health rates (statistically) significantly higher than the rate for all industries. See the press release.