Tag Archives: case law

Estate agent fined £200,000 after house viewing fall

You may recall a national story regarding a viewing which went horribly wrong when a lady fell into a well within the properties garden.  The local estate agent, Strakers (Holdings) Ltd was showing the house to Mr and Mrs Driver and they were told to look around the grounds on arrival.

In the garden Mrs Driver stepped on a wooden board unaware that it was covering a deep well within the property, the board then gave way.  The board gave way and she plunged 30 feet into water below, initially being submerged in water before neighbours found a hosepipe which she managed to secure around her waist.

It was an hour before the emergency services managed to effect a rescue and she was let with head injuries, concussion and post traumatic stress disorder.

It was found in court that viewers were not warned of the presence of the well and a previous buyer had lifted the board and discovered the presence of the well.  An employee of the defendant had then visited the property and noted the wooden board but had assumed that a metal grill would had been beneath it but, crucially, had not checked this to be the case, in spite of the condition of the board which looked unsupportive.

Strakers (Holdings) Limited pleaded guilty to breaching s.3 (1)Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £200,000 plus costs of £2,474. The size of the fine reflected the fact that the accident could have been fatal and that a number of staff and visitors had been put at risk.

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Slips on a Icy Path… A Case Law example

As we have a cold weather front approaching and some real winter may well be approaching… that leads us to the old stories and tales about slips on ice and who is responsible.

Most of what we hear from good intentioned colleagues has to be taken with a pinch of salt – even advice from experts can be somewhat hit and miss.

We can argue that ice is naturally occurring but case law leads us to recommend that anti slip overshoes or similar may be a wise investment for some staff, particularly those visiting homes without the benefit industrial footwear.

Read on below for some case law to shed some light on the matter.

Kennedy v Cordia

This is one of the most significant cases in this area and concerns a care home worker who, in December 2010, slipped on a path. She had been making an essential visit during that period of very cold weather, wearing flat shoes with some ridging of the soles but they were not a match for the icy path conditions.  She fell and broke her wrist and the case was eventually heard at the Scottish Court of Session in August 2013 where the Court found in her favour and against her employer, Cordia (Services) LLP.

However, her employer appealed the case and was successful in its defence BUT the case was then referred to the Supreme Court which then concluded that Cordia (Services) LLP were liable after all.  Hope you are following this so far!

The above gives some insight into both the legal process and the difficulty of the courts in deciding who is actually at fault. The key issue was the fact that icy conditions had been identified as a risk AND that similar accidents had occurred in the past, this meant that ice could be seen then as an obvious hazard affecting the worker.

One other key fact was that staff were advised to wear appropriate footwear but that this was not specified in terms of what appropriate was.  Other similar businesses (mostly larger ones) had begun to provide anti slip over shoes (Yaktrax and similar) and it was decided that their provision would have been reasonable to expect in the circumstances.  The company was found guilty under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.

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CDM Client and their Contractors fined more than £1.5m

A local authority and its two contractors have been fined in excess of HSE£1.5 million following two incidents involving roadworks on a busy Liverpool city centre road. A man died and another was seriously injured while attempting to cross Queens Drive in Liverpool during major resurfacing works which happened in the summer of 2012.

In the case, heard at Liverpool Crown Court, it was reported that on the 3 July 2012 a 74-year-old man suffered head injuries after he was hit by a car while using a crossing at temporary lights. One side of the Queen’s Drive dual carriageway had been put into a contraflow to allow vehicles to travel in both directions but temporary pedestrian lights were not working and no alternative was provided.

The Court also heard that on the 19th August 2012, 69-year-old Ernest Haughton died when he was struck by a car whilst crossing a single lane of traffic on the same road using a temporary pedestrian crossing.

Following complaints from motorists changes were made to the traffic control lights to alleviate congestion but this  resulted in the removal of the natural break in traffic flow needed to allow pedestrians to safely cross the carriageway.

When Mr Haughton died the temporary lights were removed but no alternative control measures were put in place to enable pedestrians to cross. In addition, a large A-frame sign was placed on the crossing which obscured the view of both pedestrians and motorists.

Liverpool City Council pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM) and were fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £100,000 costs.

HSE investigators found that Liverpool City Council had failed to ensure that the arrangements for managing the roadworks were suitable, including failing to appoint a suitable co-ordinator for the work. Instead the council sought to delegate responsibilities to Enterprise Liverpool Limited who pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM) and were fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £80,000 costs.

HSE found that Enterprise Liverpool Limited failed to ensure the designs for the traffic management were checked or approved and failed to check that the construction plan for pedestrian routes and provision of barriers was being followed.  At the time of the incidents they were found not to have provided a safe means of pedestrians crossing the works area or the carriageway.

Tarmac Trading Limited of Solihull, pleaded guilty to Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974 and were fined £1.3 million and ordered to pay £130,000 costs.

Tarmac Trading Limited, who were responsible for the provision and installation of the traffic and pedestrian management, failed to provide alternative assistance for pedestrians at the time of the first incident despite it being known that the temporary lights were broken. A temporary bus stop had also been placed in the middle of the road at the crossing.

HSE Inspector Jacqueline Western commented:

“The risks associated with road works are well known in the industry and specific guidance is available to assist with the planning and implementation. It is not unreasonable to expect that those who regularly engage in this type of construction work should be well aware of their roles and responsibilities.

The combined failure of all three dutyholders to comply with their duties on more than one occasion during the Queens Drive resurfacing project, led to one man losing his life and another suffering serious injury. It could quite easily have been two fatal incidents.

By engaging with the entire project team at the very start of a project, clients like Liverpool City Council, can ensure that a good health and safety culture is embodied throughout the life of the project. Ongoing communication and cooperation between the principal contractors and sub-contractors ensures that the project is being adequately planned, managed and monitored.”

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HSE fines increase by 43 percent

HSEBetween February 2016 and August 2016, health and safety fines totalled £20.6 million, compared to £14.4 million in February 2015 to August 2015 (please note that these costs may in fact be significantly higher as the data does not include sentences imposed in cases prosecuted by local authorities).

In the past few weeks alone there have been a number of high value, high profile fines, including:

It seems that for medium sized businesses fines are now routinely hitting the £1m point, indeed it has been argued that under the new Sentencing Guidelines ‘very large businesses’ (those with a turnover in excess of £50m) may see fines as high as £100m becoming common place.

Now may be the time to review your current board level arrangements for health and safety, ensure that you are treating it with the importance it deserves and documenting the good practice you have in place.  Consider a Gap Analysis from one of our experts as a good place to start.

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Takeaway owner sentenced for Fire Safety Offences

The owner of a Gloucester takeaway (Best Takeaway, 136 Eastgate Street, Gloucester) has this week been prosecuted for serious breaches of fire safety legislation.best_takeaway_interior

Ilhami Ince, originally of London,  appeared at Cheltenham Magistrates Court on the 15th August 2016 for failing to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

This hearing followed an earlier failure to appear resulting in a warrant being issued for his arrest. Throughout the investigation the lack of co-operation from Mr Ince repeatedly frustrated the process of making the premises safe in the event of fire thereby failing to protect the persons who had been placed at risk.

In July 2014, a multi-agency inspection of the premises was carried out supported by Gloucester City Council and Gloucestershire Constabulary. Fire Safety Enforcement Officers found that unauthorised sleeping accommodation for staff had been provided on the first and second floors and that a fire alarm system had not been provided and the structural fire precautions were insufficient to allow safe escape in the event of fire.

The Fire Safety breaches identified in the premises were so serious that death or serious injury would be imminent in the event of fire. This resulted in the first and second floors being prohibited from use.

Further investigations found that the ‘prohibition notice’ was being breached and staff were sleeping on the first and second floors.

The defendant pleaded guilty to the following matters:

  1. Failure to comply with the prohibition notice on 3 occasions 24th September 2014, 8th October 2014, 7th July 2015.
  2. Ground floor door between the takeaway and escape route was not fire-resisting.
  3. Employees were not provided with fire safety training.
  4. Two bedroom doors on the first floor were not fire-resisting.
  5. Two bedroom doors on the second floor were not fire-resisting.
  6. One bedroom door was so small a person had to crawl through it to exit and enter.
  7. A kitchen was situated within the first floor escape route.
  8. Emergency lighting was not provided.
  9. No fire alarm and smoke detectors were provided.
  10. A Fire Risk Assessment had not been completed.
  11. No fire safety information provided to employees

Ince was sentenced to 4 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months and was also ordered to pay full costs of £11,228.04 plus victim surcharge.

Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member responsible for fire, said:

“Fire safety law is there to ensure that occupants of premises are safe.

“Although we would prefer to work alongside business owners to make sure they comply with law, sometimes prosecution is the only reasonable outcome. Our priority is to ensure that Gloucestershire a safe place to live, work and visit.

“This prosecution sends a strong message to the business community to ensure that fire regulations are taken seriously.”

Chief fire officer Stewart Edgar said: “The targeted inspections highlighted some serious fire safety concerns in a number of premises that provided staff accommodation, so immediate action has been taken.

“The fire service is now working with these businesses to make sure their fire safety is brought up to standard. A fire in a commercial premises would have a devastating impact on both the employer and employee and the outcome could be a large fine or imprisonment in serious cases.”

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Solar panel installer falls through fragile asbestos roof, company fined more than £20,000

solar_farm_imageNorwich-based Durrant Electrical and Mechanical Ltd, trading as Green Home Energy Solutions, had admitted a single charge of breaching working at height regulations on September 26, 2013.

The accident occurred when employee Chris Eldon was measuring up an asbestos roof on a tractor shed at Woodland Farm, near Watton.  He was completing this work without the use of crawling boards.

Klentiana Mahmutaj, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said Mr Eldon suffered severe concussion, a fractured wrist and bruising to the base of his spine when it gave way and he fell 2m to the ground.

An HSE investigation had found the company had carried out an inadequate risk assessment and planning for working on an inadequate roof.  The HSE Inspector added no-one from Durrant Electrical and Mechanical had been on site to brief Mr Eldon before he and apprentice Kyll Staff had started work.

“What should have happened was for the roof to be assessed by a competent person, who would have concluded it was fragile,” she said, adding falling from a roof could often lead to death or serious injuries.

Julia Kendrick, defending the firm, said Mr Eldon had worked for the company since 2011 and had been been given training in health and safety and working at heights. She added: “He was very experienced and he had significant training to make him aware of the risks which were inherent in the kind of work he was undertaking.

“The injured person had completed more than 100 installations. He was a supervisor on some jobs and they considered him extremely competent. Systems were in place but were not sufficiently adhered to or implemented.”

Durrant Electrical and Mechanical had had to lay off workers after a downturn in the renewables sector, the court was told. After making a £95,000 profit in 2015, it had so far lost £25,000 this year.

“They are struggling to pay their workers and stay afloat,” said Miss Kendrick, adding the company had no previous accidents or convictions.

Under the new sentencing guidelines firms can be fined between £14,000 and £250,000 for breaches. Judge Sell ordered it to pay £14,000, with £7,000 costs, commenting: “I’ve certainly not seen any evidence of serious or systemic failings to assess risks to health and safety.”

Durrent Electrical and Mechanical was given two years to pay.

After the hearing directors Kerry and Debbie Durrant, who were present in court, declined to comment.

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Occupational Health: Styrene Vapour Prosecution, Templetown Canopies Ltd

We’ve carried out many monitoring programmes which have involved exposure to styrene over the past 20 or so years.  The substance is in common use and because of this businesses and their staff can sometimes become too familiar with the substance and fail to take adequate precautions.

We also have heard staff assuring us that they don’t need to use protective equipment as they have developed a tolerance or even an immunity to styrene’s effects – wouldn’t it be good if that could ever be the case…

In the case below styrene exposure simply wasn’t guarded against and although HSE Inspectors know that small businesses have pressures on them they quite rightly won’t allow this as an excuse to endanger the health of their employees.

If you need occupation health advice, air monitoring for styrene or any other safety support please speak to your retained advisor or contact us on 01453 800100 to get some sound advice.

Styrene vapour not controlled by extraction and RPE

Templetown Canopies Limited from Tyneside has been prosecuted over the lack of controls regarding the use of the hazardous substance styrene during the production of fibre glass door and window canopies.

Styrene exposure causes irritation to the nose, throat and lungs and neurological effect including difficulty in concentrating, drowsiness, headaches and nausea.

HSE inspected the company premises in May 2013 issued an Improvement Notice. However, the company did not take action to comply with the Notice until they moved premises in March 2015 failing to adequately control exposure of their employees to styrene.

An extraction system should also have been in place to remove the heavier than air vapours and RPE provided with the correct filters (FFP3) to protect operators.

Employees exposed to styrene vapour for almost 2 years

Templetown Canopies Limited, of Shaftsbury Avenue, South Shields, Tyne and Wear, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) and was fined £8,500 and ordered to pay costs of £4,500.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Fiona McGarry said:

“Workers’ health was put at risk from exposure to styrene for a period of 22 months, even after the company had been made aware of the actions it needed to take.

Whilst HSE is sympathetic to the pressures faced by small businesses, this is simply not acceptable. Employers need to take action to ensure they are providing adequate control to protect the health of their employees.”

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Brexit and its effects on safety

The news is full of Brexit and the likelihood is that your sick of hearing about it!

In that case sorry, but I couldn’t resist responding to a few clients who have raised questions on how it might affect safety laws and regulation over the coming months and years.

In truth I think most people are agreed that its impact will be minimal, the UK has always been a leader in global safety and our progress with HS(G)65 and BS8800 leading into OHSAS18001 has cemented this.  However, there are a few areas which we might see some movement in as we move into a more independent regulatory stance…

Oh, and Brexit has already been used in a legal defence!  More on that below.

Brexit and Safety Legislation

As we said we do feel that there are some areas which may be affected by Brexit and these are the three key areas where we feel a change may occur;

  1. CDM 2015 (application to domestic projects)
  2. Working Time Directive (extension of opt outs)
  3. REACH regulations

I think the most likely and the most impactful of these three will be the CDM Regulations 2015.  The truth is that application of these regulations to the domestic sector was largely forced upon us by the EU, we’ve never applied HASAWA to domestic situations and were reluctant to do so at the time of the first mobile sites Directive in 1994.

Our subsequent failure to incorporate the domestic element of the European Directive into UK CDM Legislation is telling and is a good example of the UK not ‘gold plating’ EU Directives.  It also aligns with the governments red tape push and is an area where smaller builders and tradesmen could return to a position where they have less H&S legislative burden (as some might put it).

Will this actually happen?  Its very hard to say as so much remains unanswered at this stage but as we approach an election in 2020 its not unlikely – so watch this space.

Brexit used as defence in HSE Prosecution

Hard to believe but Brexit has already made its first appearance as part of the defence in a prosecution by HSE with Stone Superstore Ltd pleading that the fine sought by the prosecution of £250,000 for the death of one of their employees who will killed in an accident involving an overturned fork lift truck in 2010.

Claiming that the company would be struggling financially post Brexit the judge agreed to reduce the fine imposing a £40,000 instead.

If you’ve got questions or need support on safety in the industrial, contracting or construction sectors please contact us for sensible and proportionate advice on 01453 800100

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Supervision: How much is enough?

fork lift truckOne of the key things people learn on their first safety courses are key phrases used in health and safety.  We, like all professions, are awash with different phrases and acronyms and one of those is ITIS (as in healthandsafetyitis – a condition which can affect us all as some point on another).

However, the phrases behind this is important; Information, Training, Instruction, Supervision.  We are told in the classroom that no matter what, we never loose that responsibility to keep pushing the safety and health messages out to our staff.  But, the law often sees things in a different and generally quite stark light where things are either OK or not, adequate or simply inadequate.

The case below can therefore be helpful to shed a little more of this light on what a judge might think is appropriate, our only caveat is that this is one case and represents a specific set of circumstances.

A case has recently been heard by the Court of Appeal involving Dean Quantrell and TWA Logistics Ltd.  Quantrell was operating a gas powered lift truck to unload vehicles but somehow managed to end up underneath the truck and sustained leg injuries, exactly how this happened is unclear.

Quantrell asserted that he was travelling at low speed when his left foot slipped from the pedal causing him to overbalance and fall.  However, the judge at the first hearing in Liverpool was seemingly unconvinced by Quantrells version of events and noted that he had been inconsistent in his story during questioning. In addition, a reconstruction showed the events described to be all but impossible when moving at slow speeds.

The judge concluded that it was more likely that the accident occurred due to a sharp turn at high speed which caused it to tip and the case was dismissed.

The case was taken to the Court of Appeal where Quantrell argued that the accident had happened at low speed and confirmed story he had recounted was broadly correct. He alleged that there were several areas in which TWA Logistics had failed including inadequate training as it had not included specific instruction in driving gas-powered FLTs or familiarisation training at the workplace as required by the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) for lift trucks. He also felt that insufficient weight had been placed on the lack of enforcement over wearing a seat belt.

The court of appeal disagreed with both arguments and then dismissed Quantrells claim. It found that although the training was not fully compliant with HSE ACoP it had covered the “basic” element just not the required “specific” and “familiarisation” parts. HThe Court felt that there was no link between the accident and any inadequacy of training. The question of seat belt usage was also found to have been given sufficient consideration by the business and although enforcement was not rigorous, it had been reasonable.  Evidence being the business supplying buzzers to alert drivers when the seat belt was not used and notices being displayed to remind drivers to use seat belts.

So an interesting conclusion and one which will serve to give some assurance to safety managers and directors alike.  Our advice?  Make sure you keep records of any reminders, toolbox talks or disciplinary action take relating to safety, it great evidence when you need it.

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