Category Archives: Health and Safety

An 80-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer found dead under a wardrobe that had fallen onto her at a care home

Thomasina Bennett, from Belper, was temporarily staying at Milford House Care Home in Derbyshire while her daughter was on holiday.

Mrs Bennett was discovered by a carer early one morning in April 2012. She was later confirmed dead by a nurse.

Milford House Partnership has denied two charges under the health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Jonathan Owen, prosecuting for Amber Valley Borough Council, told the jury: “Only a small proportion of Mrs Bennett’s weight was needed to pull over the wardrobe and [this] exposed Mrs Bennett to significant risk to her health and safety.”

He added that a sufficient assessment would have concluded the wardrobe was not safe and should have been fastened to the wall.

Mr Owen also said the personal activity monitors used in the home posed a risk to health and safety as staff could only react to one at a time.

Gerald Hudson, 72, from Ambergate, trading as Milford House Partnership, denies both charges brought under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act.

Judge Jonathan Bennett told the jury: “You are not here to decide if the defendant caused or did not cause the accident; it’s all about the risk to safety.”

carer slips on ice when visiting client – should employer have provided crampons

Supreme Court holds that an employer is liable for an employee who slipped on ice when visiting a client.

The appellant was employed as a home carer by the respondents. Her work involved visiting clients in their homes and providing personal care. On 18 December 2010, at around 8pm, she was required to visit an elderly lady. There had been severe wintry conditions in central Scotland for several weeks, with snow and ice lying on the ground. The appellant was driven to the house by a colleague, who parked her car close to a public footpath leading to the house. The footpath was on a slope, and was covered with fresh snow overlying ice. It had not been gritted or salted. The appellant was wearing flat boots with ridged soles. After taking a few steps, she slipped and fell, injuring her wrist.

In the judgment is was held that the duties imposed for a suitable risk assessment to be carried out and PPE provided extend to when a person is “at work” and not merely whilst carrying out work. So what would have helped? The provision of crampons? Maybe some form of supplementary anti slip overshoes, grips or snow shoes would have helped? As this case was in central Scotland during winter months is it likely there would be snow and ice on a farly regular basis? Did the appellant usually wear anti slip shoes when not at work, if not does that suggest she was unaware of the risk or was happy to accept it, or was prepared to take more care and wear appropriate footwear?

What does this judgment mean for employers who have staff who walk outside at any time whilst at work, on untreated footpaths or surfaces when it has snowed or been icy? If a member of staff from an office has to visit a client in winter months when there is a risk of snow and ice, does their employer have to provide crampons? Was this really the intent of the original Regulations?

This judgement focuses on the fact that the employers knew about the risk as there had been previous accidents involving members of staff visiting clients slipping on snow and ice. Their own risk assessment had identified it as a forseeable risk. As their employees had to visit clients at home there was a forseeable risk footpaths would not have been treated or gritted. They should have provided some form of gripper soles which the applellant confirmed she would have worn if they had been provided.

Significant fine following horrific accident

The incident, that was caught on CCTV involved 23-year-old Alex Storey who was travelling on an escalator at the Howard Shopping Centre in Welwyn Garden City in October 2013 when both her legs became trapped in a gap carrying her up the escalator after servicing engineers failed to replace a step.

Multinational lift maker Otis has been fined £240,000 Sub-contractor Complete Escalator Services Ltd was also fined £13,000.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, prosecuted both companies for health and safety failings which included not ensuring adequate liaison between the contractor and subcontractor’s on site teams, allowing staff with no appropriate training to undertake the work, being unclear as to who was supervising the work on site and failure to complete simple checks prior returning the escalator to service.

Otis Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. At St Albans Crown Court it was fined £240,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,202.

Complete Escalator Services was fined £13,000 with £11,332 costs after pleading guilty to breaching the same section of the act.

On the day of the accident a team from each company was on site. The crew from Complete Escalator was replacing stairs on four different escalators while the crew from Multinational Otis was carrying out general inspections.   This clearly shows how vital it is for appropriate levels of cooperation and coordination between various contractors when working on the same site.

 

 

HSE to prosecute Alton Towers’ owners after ‘Smiler’ incident

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has today informed Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd that it will be prosecuted over an incident in which five people were seriously injured on a rollercoaster ride at Alton Towers in Staffordshire.

Two female passengers on the ‘Smiler’ ride suffered leg amputations and three others were also seriously injured when their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track. The incident happened on 2 June 2015.

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd based in Poole, Dorset, will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, Newcastle-under-Lyme on 22 April 2016 to face a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act etc, 1974.

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands said:

“We have today informed Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd that it will be prosecuted for breaching health and safety law.

“This was a serious incident with life-changing consequences for five people.

“We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution.”

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd is the company responsible for Alton Towers and under health and safety law is responsible for managing the risks created by the operation of the theme park’s rides.

Will exit from European Union affect our safety standards or reduce the claims for compensation?

Between now and the 23rd June there will undoubtedly be all manner of debate and heated discussion about whether we are better off in or out of the European Union. Should we stay or should we go?

The economic and political debate will be top of the news agenda, but what about the oft quoted “elf n safety” agenda, will the likes of Clarkson and Littlejohn use this as an opportunity to take well aimed shots at society’s march towards the “compensation culture” and try to link this to European meddling in our safety laws? 

The growth of the claims management industry has got to be significant factor in the volume of compensation claims made in the civil courts, an industry highlighted in Lord Young’s review of safety law in the UK in 2010.  In his executive summary he commented:

“The ‘no win, no fee’ system gives rise to the perception that there is no financial risk to starting litigation; indeed some individuals are given financial enticements to make claims by claims management companies”

There is a huge question as to whether the compensation culture is more a reflection on our society than any reality about our safety laws.  HSE’s  own Dame Judith Hackett DBE FREng  will no doubt touch on this during a debate in March when she will recognise that the HSE has had to fight hard to re-establish its reputation in the UK, which is partly caused by media exaggeration of stories blamed on “elf n safety” that have little to do with the prevention of death and serious injury to people at work.  Judith will also argue that managers and leaders in business must share some of the responsibility for having lost sight of the basic principles and over-bureaucratising what should be an integral part of everyone’s role.

Whatever your political persuasion and views on whether we should be in or out, it should not be forgotten that in the UK we have had safety laws designed to protect workers since the 1802 Health and Morals of Apprentices Act was passed, this early piece of safety law was promoted by Sir Robert Peel, an MP (and father of the future prime minister) who himself was a wealthy factory owner. He was concerned to see that humane standards of treatment were established for the increasing numbers of ‘pauper apprentices’ employed in factories like his own.

Followed by other industry specific pieces of domestic safety legislation through the 1800s and 1900s and after the Robens report of 1972 The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was enacted.  This enabling Act has been the underpinning law protecting workers and others for over 40 years, it is the more often than not the law that enforcers use to prosecute those who transgress.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was described as “a bold and far-reaching piece of legislation” by HSE’s first Director General, John Locke. It certainly marked a departure from the framework of prescribed and detailed regulations which was in place at the time. The Act introduced a new system based on less-prescriptive and more goal-based regulations, supported by guidance and codes of practice.  This principle has of course been extended within The Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 and The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 with the duty holder having to assess risk to determine what control measures should be put in place.

While it is true that the introduction of the 6 pack of Regulations driven by a European Directive in 1992/3 introduced a swathe of additional regulations, the majority of the new duties could be argued to have been an attempt to make implied duties from the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 explicit.

While the debate about whether we should stay in or leave will rage over the coming months, UK enforcing agencies including the HSE, local authority EHOs and fire and rescue service inspecting officers will continue to apply UK legislation proportionally to ensure that the workforce and others affected by business activities are as safe as possible.

Meanwhile some claims management companies will continue to encourage the general populous to make spurious claims, feeding on the get rich quick, it wasn’t my fault, I am entitled to compensation minority.

Should we stay or should we go?  You decide.

Manufacturing company and director fined for safety failings

HSE is reporting on a case which shares a number of similarities with the often quoted R v Associated Octel case of 1996.  A manufacturing company based in Shrewsbury and its director have been fined after an empty 45 gallon steel drum once containing flammable liquid caught fire and exploded when being cut in half.

Risks associated with such a task are clearly foreseeable not least because of the fatal outcome of earlier incidents including the  Octel case, which has been used to clarify an employer’s duties to both employees and others.

Shrewsbury Magistrates’ Court heard how an employee of SPEL Products had reported the incident, and indicated this particular method of work had been in operation for a significant period of time, and that previous incidents had occurred.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident immediately served a prohibition notice (PN) stopping the cutting of metal containers once containing highly flammable liquid or vapour with metal cutting angle grinders.

SPEL Products, of Lancaster Road, Shrewsbury, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 5(1), 6(1) and 9(1) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations 2002, and was fined £13,666 and ordered to pay costs of £4,856.

Bryan Peacock (Director of SPEL), of Lancaster Road, Shrewsbury, was found guilty of breaching Regulation 6(1) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations 2002, and was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,408.

HSE inspector David Kivlin said after the hearing: “Carrying out this type of activity in this manner is a well-known risk and there has been many incidents resulting in serious injury and death.”

Two companies fined after director of one falls through a skylight

Picture2HSE has reported that 2 companies have been fined for safety failings after the director of one company fell through a skylight at the other company’s site.

 

Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court heard Touch Access Limited (TAL) of Bournemouth attended the site of Beagle Technology Group Limited (BTGL) to clean out roof gutters of the buildings. While carrying out this work the company director of TAL lost his balance and fell through a plastic skylight approximately fifteen feet. He sustained two broken wrists, a broken elbow, and cuts to his face.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred on 11 July 2013 found that TAL failed to ensure the work at height was properly planned and carried out safely.

BGTL failed to provide TAL with adequate information on the hazards and associated risks they would be exposed to in undertaking the work.

Touch Access Limited, of Wordsworth Avenue, Bournemouth, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,144.

Beagle Technology Group Limited, of Stony Lane, Christchurch, Dorset, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay costs of £1,144.

HSE inspector Damien Milbourne said after the hearing: “Working on roofs is a high risk activity because it involves working at height. Falls through fragile materials, such as roof lights and asbestos cement roofing sheets, account for more deaths as a result of falling from height than any other single cause.

“The risks of working on fragile roofs are well-known, but so too are the ways to manage those risks, and all parties involved with work on fragile roofs must ensure the work is correctly planned and managed to ensure the safety of all involved.”

Health and safety: the journey back to common sense and personal responsibility

Dame Judith Hackitt DBE FREng will reflect on eight years as Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – a health and safety system, which is emulated around the world and has over the last 40 years delivered enormous improvements.

The HSE has had to fight hard to re-establish its reputation in the UK, which is partly caused by media exaggeration of stories blamed on “elf n safety” that have little to do with the prevention of death and serious injury to people at work. Judith will also argue that managers and leaders in business must share some of the responsibility for having lost sight of the basic principles and over-bureaucratising what should be an integral part of everyone’s role. As the HSE launches its revised strategy for the next five years, Judith will call upon all business leaders to recognise the role they must play in getting back onto the right track in helping Britain to work well.

The lecture will take place on Tuesday 15 March 2016, 6:00pm – 9:00pm at Prince Philip House, 3 Carlton House terrace, London SW1Y 5DG

 

 

 

Scaffolding firm in court after worker’s roof fall

The HSE’s website news feed reports on a case which resulted from a fall during scaffolding works. Hemel Hempstead Scaffolding Limited has been fined after a worker suffered life changing injuries when he fell from the roof of a barn.

Stewart Thomas from Hemel Hempstead, 31 at the time of the incident, was carrying out scaffolding work in preparation for the installation of solar panels on a barn roof at Gaddesden Home Farm, Bridens Camp on Red Lion Lane on 25 July 2013. St Albans Crown Court heard that father of one Mr Thomas was placing scaffold boards along the roof ridge when he fell through the fragile roof to the concrete floor eight metres below. He suffered multiple injuries to his head and neck including a brain stem injury, a punctured lung, broken ribs and a lacerated liver. Mr Thomas is now unable to talk, move or feed himself and requires residential care.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Hemel Hempstead Scaffolding Limited had never provided a written method statement or risk assessment for this work. Critically there were no fall protection measures in place, and there was also no appropriate supervision of inexperienced and trainee scaffolders on the site.

Hemel Hempstead Scaffolding Limited of Seymour Crescent, Hemel Hempstead pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act, 1974 and were fined £110,000 and ordered to pay £22,596 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Stephen Manley is reported to have said: “The company’s approach to health and safety was poor. They failed to properly and safely plan the work they were contracted to carry out and failed to supervise inexperienced young workers. The particular works would have been unfamiliar to the team and so the lack of thorough supervision was lamentable.

“As a result of their failings a young father has been left being unable to communicate or look after himself and he will never be able to play with his young daughter.

When working at height, there is a high likelihood of serious injury or death if safe procedures are not put in place and adequate steps taken to ensure they are followed”.

Guidance on work at height is available via the HSE website.

New sentencing guidelines are now in force

Following the Sentencing Council’s publication of the definitive sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety offences on 3rd November 2015, the guidelines came into force on 1st February 2016 and apply to any case sentenced in courts in England and Wales.

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Described by some as the most dramatic change to health and safety legislation since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act in 1974, the guidelines have been introduced to give courts comprehensive guidance for these offences. They introduce a structured nine step approach that the Court should follow, so as to calculate sentences.  This involves plugging culpability and harm factors into a series of tables to reach recommended starting point fines, as well as ranges of fines above and below the starting points.

They can involve highly complex cases that do not frequently come before the courts and therefore the Sentencing Council decided that existing guidance should be expanded and revised to ensure that fair and proportionate sentences are given to offenders.

It has been stated that in some cases, the guidelines will result in higher penalties, although the council does not have any intention that the guideline should increase fines across the board, or that they will be significantly higher in the majority of cases to those currently imposed.

However, large organisations that have been convicted of the most serious offences, where they have flagrantly breached the law and created a very high risk of serious harm, or where serious harm has actually been caused, can expect to receive a fine proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and to their financial means.