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Workplace Safety: Fines and Court Cases

By: Norman Thomson - Updated: 14 Sep 2019 | comments*Discuss
Health Safety Fines Court Cases Injury

Every year, hundreds of health and safety cases are taken to court by health and safety inspectors from the local authority and from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Reviewing these cases gives a good indication of how failures occur and how the enforcing authorities respond to such failure.

Here is a selection of recent cases:

Fall From a Ladder

An employee fell from a ladder while dismantling storage racking in an office. The ladder wasn’t secured properly and the employee had not been provided with proper training in the use of the ladder. The company was fined £20000.

Unsupervised Child

An employee brought a child into the factory where he worked. The child was allowed to move freely and unsupervised around the factory premises, which contained many different hazards and risks, including dangerous machinery. Local inspectors were called to the factory on another matter and found that the child was present. Inspectors claimed that the child was not only at risk of serious injury, but that he was also a distraction to employees. The company was fined £10000.

Meat Processing Plant

An employee got his hand trapped between two moving conveyor belts on a meat processing plant. Inspectors carried out an investigation and found that the injured employee had not been given any training in the use of the conveyor system. In addition, the company failed to provide proper guarding equipment around the conveyor belts and had failed to provide proper emergency stop buttons near to the belts. A massive fine of £95000 was imposed by the courts.

Trainee Falls to His Death

A 17 year old trainee was killed when he fell 18 metres into a sewage tank. The man was involved in constructing a scaffold inside the tank. The scaffold company had failed to provide proper work instructions on how to carry out this task. In addition, they had failed to provide training for the employee and had failed to provide adequate supervision. The company was fined £50000.

Another Fall

Falls are one of the most common types of accident at work. A worker was fitting metal gratings on a gantry, which was 35 metres above ground level. He lost his balance and fell to his death. The company was fined £45000 for failing to provide appropriate personal protective equipment and for failing to provide a safe system of work.

Radioactive Material

A radioactive source was removed from a radiotherapy machine in a hospital. The source was transported from the hospital for disposal by a licensed road transport company. However, when the source arrived at its destination, it was found to be emitting a high level beam of radiation through the bottom of the transportation container. It was found that a shield plug, which should have been fitted when the unit was removed from the radiotherapy machine, was missing, thereby allowing radiation to be emitted from the source. The judge said, ‘I find myself driven to the conclusion that the company must face a substantial penalty’. However, the company put forward a guilty plea and were awarded a discount of one third from their fine. The fine was £250000.

Even Emergency Services Are Not Exempt

A fire fighter was seriously injured when he slipped into a portable grain dryer on a farm. A fire had started inside the grain dryer and the fire fighter was sent inside to help clear the wet grain, which was clogging up the internal auger. However, he lost his footing and slid down into the auger, which was turning at the time. His foot was completely destroyed, and was later amputated at the ankle. The fire brigade was found to be negligent because they had failed to carry out proper risk assessment of this type of incident and had therefore failed to provide suitable procedures and safe systems of work. They were fined £2000.

All of the above incidents could have been prevented. Loss of life, personal injury, pain and long term disability occur because people fail to look at the hazards associated with their work. These cases highlight the need for employers to carry out risk assessments, to put proper procedures in place and to train their employees in the procedures, hazards and risks that exist. With a little thought and effort, pain and suffering as a result of accidents at work can be greatly reduced.

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Please can someone tell me if removing a Rescue at Height Pack for Working at Height from one place of work to another, where this is there only means of providing a rescue is permissable in UK HSWA
Red Eye - 14-Sep-19 @ 9:35 AM
Is it too late for me to make a claim against a workplace where I fell down a flight of stairs and chipped the bone in my knee,back in 2008? My knee is ruined for life but I never did anything about it then!
Loulou - 27-Dec-16 @ 10:56 PM
Can anyone please advise me on what the H&S stance is on a pregnant worker driving MHE (VNA truck), many thanks
Lisa - 13-Jun-16 @ 12:04 PM
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