In the courts – a roundup of recent health and safety prosecutions and punishments...

November 16th 2017

In this edition we have highlighted some of the key health and safety cases that have recently appeared before the courts throughout the UK. There is a worrying theme throughout; they were all entirely preventable. Often a simple risk assessment or some health and safety training is all that is required to prevent severe injuries to employees and huge fines being awarded against companies.

Aldi…..The successful supermarket giant, which has a £7billion annual turnover was recently fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £70,000 in prosecution costs following an accident at one of its stores near Derby. The driver had only been employed at the store for 2 weeks when he was severely injured using an electric pallet trolley for which he had not been suitably trained. Whilst attempting to move some goods he lost control of the equipment which resulted in the amputation of 2 toes and his foot being surgically restructured. He was off work for 7 months and now has life changing injuries.

Aldi admitted that its induction and training arrangements were inadequate. They relied on new drivers shadowing experienced staff but did not have in place a formalised training plan that ensured consistent training and suitable supervision.

All new staff should receive formal training and adequate supervision whilst learning new roles.

 

Norfolk farm fined after tragic death….  a family owned Norfolk farming company has been fined after an employee died at its grain storage facility.

Arthur Mason, a 21 year old, was cleaning inside the grain bins when the incident happened. He was standing directly on the stored grain, using a broom to clean down the exposed inner surfaces of the bin.  He was wearing a harness fitted with a fall-arrest lanyard, which was secured to a fixed ladder inside the bin.

He began to sink into the grain, which was emptying slowly through a small opening at the bottom of the bin several feet below. Any such movement or cavity in the grain could be enough to create a ‘quicksand’ like effect.

The forces involved caused the fall-arrest component of the lanyard to unravel and extend which caused him to sink even deeper into the grain. He swiftly became engulfed in the grain and subsequently drowned.  An investigation by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the employer of the deceased had failed to adequately identify and manage the deadly risks associated with cleaning grain stores. There was no safe system of work in place for this task, nor had anyone involved been provided with suitable training in how to complete it safely.

The farm owners, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and were fined £50,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £22,000.

Drinking and driving on private land… A worker driving on private land, whilst over the legal drink drive limit, cannot currently be prosecuted under the Road Traffic Act as it does not apply to private land activities. However, this does not mean that drink drive related incidents will go unpunished. In a recent case involving the death of an 11 year old boy, a farm tractor driver was found to be 2.5 times over the legal limit for alcohol when he reversed over the child. He was prosecuted under health and safety legislation and sentenced to 16 months and 2 weeks in prison. If the Road Traffic Act had been applicable the maximum sentence could have been 14 years.

Alec Shelbrooke, MP for Elmet and Rothwell, raised the issue in the House of Commons on 13 July 2017.  In response, transport minister John Hayes said that the penalty for an illegal action should not depend on where it happens, and that: “I will consider how we might address this, including the possibility of future legislative reform.”

We would urge all employers in the rural and agricultural sectors to review your driving policies and procedures and ensure that employees are aware that drinking and operating dangerous machinery is unacceptable under any circumstances.

 

Lycetts Risk Management Services gives you access to a wide range of practical risk management guidance and assistance. Please contact Richard Wade on 0845 671 8999 to discuss your requirements.

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