HSE Inspector fined for ‘Bizarre’ behaviour

An HSE inspector prosecuting a theme-park firm over the death of a worker ended up in the dock owing to her behaviour in court.

Inspector Helen Diamond was fined £2000 at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court on 10 November after being found in contempt of court. The charge related to her behaviour in court and towards a defence witness during the trial of Parkware Ltd, owner of the Loudoun Castle theme park in Galston, Ayrshire.

Martin Smith, who worked as a ride operator at the theme park at the time of the incident, who had given evidence for the defence, was later approached in the common area outside the court room by Diamond who asked him what his degree was in, and when he replied accountancy she told him it could have been in drama after his “performance”.

Then, while another defence witness was giving evidence, Sheriff Elizabeth McFarlane noticed the inspector pulling faces and shaking her head in the public gallery, although the Sheriff decided not to bring her behaviour to the court’s attention at this point.

Susan Duff, who was representing Parkware, made a motion to the court to have Diamond excluded because of the incident with Smith. Sheriff McFarlane agreed and told Diamond that she was considering whether her actions were in contempt. The trial ended on 10 October, with Parkware found not guilty of a contravention of section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, at which point Diamond was recalled to answer a charge of contempt of court, which she accepted.

Diamond was fined £2000 by the Court and a further £500 by HSE plus has been banned from promotion for 3 years and been issued a final written warning.

A spokesperson for the Health & Safety Executive said: “This is a matter of great regret to both the inspector and the HSE. We accept and understand the decision of the court, and HSE has taken its own disciplinary action against the individual, in addition to the sentence imposed by the court. We expect the highest standards of conduct from all our employees and regret what happened in this case.”

The HSE also confirmed that it intends to write to its field staff to “remind them about court etiquette”.

Fined for leaving scaffolding up too long

The death of a seven-year-old, who’d managed to gain access to scaffolding, led to a successful prosecution by the HSE.
Background
Lovell Partnerships Ltd erected a scaffold so that its staff could repair a chimney flue whilst controlling the risk of falling from height, all well and good you might think. The plan was to put the scaffold up, complete the work, and then take it back down again shortly afterwards. However, work was delayed due to an unexpected hold-up and the scaffold remained in place.
As the scaffold was there with no one using it, local children soon adopted it as a playground. They even built a den on the roof of the building. However, twelve days after the scaffold was erected, seven-year-old Adam Triffin fell from it to his death.
Prosecution
The subsequent HSE investigation identified that the accident happened because the scaffolding had been in place long after the time when it should have been needed. The HSE Principal Inspector stated that had the scaffold been removed promptly when it was no longer needed the accident would not have occurred leading to a fine of £75,000 and costs of £46,109 against the company.

Rough justice
You could argue that this was a little heavy handed. Although the company had left the scaffold in place this was due to unforeseen circumstances, further, the company had taken steps to make access more difficult including the removal of access ladder to the lower levels of the platform. However, in this case access was made from the balcony of the building which children did have access to (the area was not fenced off as a construction site and the work area was in the middle of a housing estate), had the company netted the scaffold to prevent this access the courts decision could have been different.

Lessons
If you leave items plant, equipment or access you could be at risk. Construction sites are an attraction to children and the Courts recognise this fact when considering cases such as these. Take some time to review your current arrangements and see if you would pass this test, if you need help in this simply contact us for some free advice and assistance.