Category Archives: In Court

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.

Another landlord fined

It has been widely reported that a Stockport landlord has been ordered to pay £12,400 in fines after breaching safety regulations at one of their properties. Beckhall Properties Ltd was charged with 11 offences related to safety at the property, a building of self-contained flats, after a complaint received by the local council prompted an inspection.

When inspecting officers arrived at the property they found a number of fire safety breaches, including a defective fire alarm, faulty fire extinguishers and a fire door that did not meet regulations. The stairs of the property were also in a dangerous condition whilst there was no safety certificate for the building’s electrics.

The city council invited Beckhall Properties Ltd to an interview under caution to discuss the areas of concern, but they received no response. Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council Councillor Bernard Priest said: “We take the issue of tenant safety extremely seriously and the size of the punishment shows the court shares our concern. “Let this action send a message to any unscrupulous landlords – who may be considering neglecting their legal obligations – that we will not hesitate to prosecute.”

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.

Fatal high rise fire should be ‘wake up call’ says Judge

It has been widely reported that housing manager Lewisham Homes has been fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £23,407 prosecution costs for breaking fire safety laws following a fatal fire in a Deptford tower block in which two women died.

Lewisham Homes were sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court on Friday (29 January) after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to (1) failing to properly maintain fire doors; and (2) failing to review an existing fire risk assessment (carried out in 2008)

‘Wake up call’ for high rise safety

Sentencing the housing manager, His Honour Judge Justice Christopher Hehir said our successful prosecution by should act as a “wake up call”, which highlighted the risks of not maintaining fire safety features in residential high rise buildings.

He also stated that had Lewisham Homes been a profit making company and not a not-for-profit organisation the fine would have been considerably higher.

Lewisham Homes is an Arms Length Management Organisation, which manages a significant proportion of the housing stock owned by the London Borough of Lewisham

We brought the prosecution under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 after an investigation carried out by our fire safety officers following the blaze on 4 February 2011.

Over 100 firefighters tackled fatal blaze

Over 100 firefighters were called to the fire at Marine Tower on Abinger Grove in Deptford which started in a flat on the 16th floor. Crews rescued two women from another flat on the same floor but sadly both were pronounced dead at the scene.

The fire was started deliberately and in 2012 Sandra Clarke, a resident in the flats, was prosecuted and convicted of two counts of manslaughter at Woolwich Crown Court.

Investigation revealed serious safety failings

The investigation by fire safety officers revealed serious safety failings relating to the failure to maintain fire doors, which directly contributed to the spread of the fire.

The flat in which the fire started was fitted with a metal security door which prevented  the existing fire door behind it from being closed.

The severity of the fire and the lack of protection between the flat where the fire started and the building’s communal areas meant fire and smoke rapidly entered the lobby and also the adjacent flat in which the two women who died were trapped.

Stark reminder to maintain vital safety features says fire safety chief

Speaking after the sentencing our Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Neil Orbell said: “Living in a high rise building is not more dangerous than living in a house but this tragic incident is a stark reminder of the potentially lethal consequences of failing to maintain the vital safety features, such as fire doors, which are built into them to give you protection from fire.

“Sadly in the case of Marine Tower, this life saving engineering was not maintained, causing fire and smoke to spread rapidly into the lobby area and ultimately into a flat where two women, trapped by the fire, tragically died.

“I absolutely agree with the Judge. This prosecution should act as a ‘wake up call’ and send an urgent message to all housing providers to ensure the fire safety features in their buildings are properly maintained.

“If they are not, housing providers, managers, landlords and building owners should all be warned that we will not hesitate to prosecute if we find they are putting people’s lives at risk.”

Company prosecuted after Sidcup fire in which woman, 91, was taken to hospital

A fire in Sidcup sheltered accommodation block, which injured a 91-year-old woman, has led to one of the UK’s largest property service groups being prosecuted for breaking safety laws.

Four engines and over 20 firefighters were called to the blaze at Milton Lodge, part of the Countrywide Plc Group, which happened in April 2011.

On Monday (February 1) Countrywide Residential Lettings Ltd were given a £19,720 bill at Bexleyheath Magistrates Court.

They rescued the pensioner from her flat, where the fire started, and she was taken to hospital suffering from serious smoke inhalation as well as slight burns.

Two other elderly residents were also treated for smoke inhalation.

Once the flames were extinguished, safety officers from London Fire Brigade(LFB) carried out an inspection of the building – and raised a number of concerns.

These included failing to properly protect a staircase from fire, failing to maintain fire doors, fire doors being left wedged open, and failing to maintain smoke vents.

Countrywide were served with an enforcement notice in May, with a legal requirement to fix the breaches.

However, the company failed to address the issues – and LFB were left with no option but to prosecute.

The company was fined £5,600, and ordered to pay £14,000 prosecution costs to the Brigade and a £120 victim surcharge – a total bill of £19,720.

LFB’s assistant commissioner Neil Orbell said: “We are talking about very simple issues here that would have been very easy to resolve, but time and again Countrywide failed to comply with our legal Enforcement Notice.

“We were left with no option but to prosecute.

“This is a sheltered block for vulnerable older people so it beggar’s belief that anyone would not immediately address issues which could compromise their safety.

“I hope this successful prosecution serves as a reminder that fire safety can be a life or death issue and building owners, managers, leaseholders and landlords take it seriously at all times.

“If we find they are not we will not hesitate to prosecute them.

“The case also highlights the importance of carrying out a proper fire risk assessment and of employing someone who is qualified and competent to carry it out.”

Fine after dangerous work over West End street

It has been reported by shponline and elsewhere that a company which manufactures and installs windows has been fined £36,000 after carrying out unsafe work in the West End of London . A member of the public alerted the HSE after it became clear that there were no measures to prevent workers falling eight metres and after part of a window was dropped onto the public area below.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard Ideal Glazing (Euro) Ltd carried out window installation work at Aldford House, Park Street, London, between 19 and 20 January 2015 that put their workers and members of the public at risk of suffering serious injuries or a fatality.

It was heard in court how the company had:

  • failed to provide equipment such as scaffolding which would have prevented the workers and window falling;
  • not provided workers with any formal training and no one was appointed to supervise the work;
  • not sufficiently assessed the risks associated wth the work;
  • failed to invest in equipment for working at height; and
  • a health and management system which relied entirely on the company’s managing directorn Mr Rashinda Joshi, despite his lack of relevant training and experience.

The court heard the company had previously been given advice by HSE in connection with work at height and that an audit by Ideal Glazing’s bank had previously identified a range of relevant health and safety failings. The court heard that neither written warning was heeded by the firm.

HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers is reported to have commented after the hearing: “Ideal Glazing (Euro) Ltd put the lives of workers and members of the public at risk. People should be able to walk down a pavement without being exposed to the risk of a heavy window falling eight-metres onto them.”

“The company’s standards were appalling, and this was particularly unacceptable as previous warnings had been blatantly disregarded.”

“This is a case where equipment such as scaffolding was not provided. It’s vital that law abiding companies have confidence they will not lose work to others who underquote them because they take shortcuts at the expense of safety”