Tag Archives: HSE Fines

Utter failure to manage safety results in tragic death

Almost all the people we know and wok with struggle with knowing the right mix of safety aspects and operational aspects when planning work.  We do have to get the job done, but let’s do it safely is a common phrase through industry and construction.

However, every now and then we come across a case where safety hasn’t been given any thought.  When the risks are so severe and obvious the facts make for uncomfortable reading and, in this case, the failures have resulted in an entirely preventable death of a young father of one.

Golf company director jailed following lake death

Gareth Pugh was collecting golf balls from a lake at Peterstone Gold Course near Newport on behalf of Dale Pike, director of Boss Golf Balls.  The works were to retrieve golf balls from a lake at the course, some thing which is typically conducted by qualified divers.

During the course of the work Mr Pugh, weighed down by the 341 golf balls (16kg) he had so far collected and the weighted belt which he wore, lost his breathing equipment and drowned.

Mr Pike was alerted by the constant stream of bubbles emerging from the water and altered the emergency services with Mr Pughs body being recovered from the water some 70 minutes later.

The court heard Pike, who ran Boss Golf Balls which sells balls retrieved from lakes, should have hired trained divers to carry out the work, at a cost of about £1,000 a day. But instead he employed Mr Pugh, who had ADHD and learning difficulties, and paid him £20-40 a day.

David Elias QC, defending, said Pike “naively and foolishly believed that all would be well with the use of that equipment in that lake”.

Sentencing Pike, Judge Keith Thomas said: “Mr Pugh was an unsuitable contender for the diving work you employed him to undertake, but you allowed him to take those risks to make a quick buck.

The risk of death or serious injury was obvious to you, but your cavalier attitude towards safety was the cause of Mr Pugh’s death.

Iwan Jenkins, from the CPS, said: “Dale Pike stood by and watched as Gareth entered the water knowing that safety regulations were being breached and which resulted in Gareth losing his life.

“There was clear evidence Pike had made enquiries with legitimate dive operators to cost this activity but he chose not to use them, instead falsely claiming to the golf club that he was a qualified commercial diver with his own equipment.

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Client fails to appoint a Principal Contractor and receives £200,000 fine

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations are long established having been first issued in 1994 but more recent changes in the 2015 update are catching out some clients.  We think that as time progresses HSE will be looking to enforce more regularly on client duties in project both large and small.

The case below will highlight the potential for clients to become liable when they don’t take steps to ensure their own compliance under CDM.  If you have questions or need CDM 2015 support please contact us and speak to one of our CDM experts on 01453 800100.

Failure by client to appoint attracts PC duties by default

The owner of block of flats has been prosecuted and fined £200,000 after HSE identified serious safety breaches during demolition of the building in South London.

As is often typical a member of the public was the first to raise the alarm and it was found that the building owner and client had failed to make any appointments under CDM 2015.  Without this is place te duties associated with the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor roles would fall to the client – something which is known to us but was most likely an unpleasant surprise for Mr Selliah Sivguru Sivaneswaran.

In October 2016 HSE Inspectors stopped work at site die to workers being exposed to a range of risks including asbestos, falls from height, and fire. When HSE revisited the site for a second time in January 2017 work had restarted whilst the site was still unsafe – despite enforcement notices being served and advice being provided.

The demolition work continued to be carried out by hand with workers climbing onto unguarded roof and bombing the debris to the ground. Workers were at risk of falling up to 4m through unguarded openings in the floors and the partly demolished staircase.

Welfare facilities were not provided and there was a significant risk of fire without adequate means of escape. The Court heard that two days before the sentencing hearing HSE had to return to the site and take further action.

The Court heard that despite the foreseeably large financial return from the project, Mr Sivaneswaran put profit before safety and paid cash in hand to untrained workers, failed to engage a site manager, and provided none of the legally-required site documentation.

Mr. Sivaneswaran pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) and 4(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £1,421.20 in costs.

HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented after the hearing:

“Mr. Sivaneswaran was a commercial client as he was carrying out work as part of a business. When he failed to appoint a Principal Contractor (PC) the the PC duties fell to him.

Thanks to a member of the public reporting the dangerous conditions HSE was able to take action. It was just good fortune that no one had been killed at the site.

Instead of taking the support and advice provided by HSE, Mr. Sivaneswaran continued to let the workers operate in appalling conditions where they were at risk of being killed. He did not even provide a WC or washing facilities”.

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Bristol Construction firm receives £145,000 fine without an incident occurring

There are two common misconceptions to be addressed here;

  1. You have to have an accident to get prosecuted and fined by the HSE;
  2. Most inspections come through random HSE visits.

This case disproves both of these assumptions.  Firstly, the case was prosecuted based on the risk of the breach rather than based on any accident or incident which occurred.  Secondly, the visit was prompted by the concerns of a member of the public communicated to HSE through their website which can be accessed here; HSE: raise a concern

Ikon construction had received previous warnings relating to the correct planning and management of construction work but these had not been acted upon.  The fine related to risk without injury during the construction of nine timber framed town houses and resulted in a significant fine of £145,000 plus £2191.20 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Kate Leftly said:

“By failing to comply with the law, Ikon Construction endangered the lives of workers at the site, and neighbouring residents of the complex being developed.

Thankfully, a complaint was made by the public which we acted on very quickly and subsequently thoroughly investigated.”

If you need help, advice and support on any aspect of construction site safety or application of the CDM Regulations as a Designer, Contractor or Principal Contractor please contact us using the links above and below to see how we can help.

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France launches ‘tick alert app’ in frantic bid to map Lyme disease explosion as blight ‘moves North’

Lyme disease and the danger from tick bites is something which we’ve been communicating for almost 10 years now.

Each month we come across another news story which reminds us that the message still needs a lot more promotion.  This month alone we’ve seen two important stories.

If you’re a fan of rugby you might well have seen the first one in which former England Captain Matt Dawson tells his story of what he though was simply a bite from a flea turning into a major health issue and ending in heart surgery, read more here

A second story relates to the launch in France of a ‘tick alert app’ in an attempt to map Lyme disease as it moves North through Europe
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/17/france-launches-tick-alert-app-frantic-bid-map-lyme-disease/

What we can say is make sure that you, your friends and all of your staff are aware of the risk, you can find more information on our earlier blog entry; http://www.outsource-safety.co.uk/blog/safety-news/lyme-disease-and-the-risk-to-landscapers-and-construction-workers/

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Failings in formwork safety leads to further injuries and fines

Formwork safety continues to be an area in which many sites could improve.  There are a range of courses out there which give useful qualification and skills in the management of formwork and falsework risk.  A good example of this would be the Temporary Works Supervisor Training Course (TWSTC) available from CITB.
For more information on this course see this link; TWSTC

Erector fell 3m after access scaffold board failed under load

Sager Construction Limited (SCL) and Shaun Dixon Services Ltd (SDSL) have been fined when an employee fell more than 3m when a scaffold board he was standing on failed.

Southwark Crown Court heard SCL had been appointed Principal Contractor under the CDM 2007 Regulations for the construction of a shopping centre and residential units.

On the 19 February 2015 the 64-year old employee of formwork contractor SDSL was installing a primary beam in the basement when he fell from the top of the work platform.  He  suffered fractures to both of his feet and deep cuts to his head and arms as a result.

Dangerous boards and poor working practices

On investigation the Health and Safety Executive found that operatives worked from boards which were in a poor condition. It was also revealed that particularly poor practices took place in relation to work at height

Sager Construction Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and was fined £34,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,577.

Shaun Dixon Services Ltd was also found guilty of breaching Regulation 13 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 at an earlier date.

The company has since entered liquidation but was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,119.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Gabriella Dimitrov said:

“The worker is lucky to have not sustained more serious injuries as a result of this fall from height.

It is entirely foreseeable that accidents will occur where work at height is being carried out without suitable work platforms and other measures to prevent workers from falling.

HSE will take action to ensure that duty holders are held to account for any failings.”

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Hand arm vibration (HAV) – are you really managing the risk?

All of us have our pet subjects.  Some of us do tend to bury our heads in the sand for areas in which we’re not as competent.  You may, if you are honest with yourself, have a hit list of subjects which you mean to ‘review’ at some stage.

Local IOSH groups or similar can be a really good place to start in tackling these issues.  Other professionals will have been there before and will have found out its really not as bad as you might think.

Once area we think you should look at afresh is controlling the risk from vibration.  We’ve been involved in assessments for many years now so if you need some help and advice just let us know.  If you’re still looking for that ‘good reason’ to make a start read the case below….

Company fined for failing to manage vibration risks

Newfield Fabrications Company, a manufacturer of steel components based in Cheshire, was fined £120,000 for failing to ensure that the risks to employees were adequately controlled.

Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court heard that in late 2015 the welder, who had worked at the company for several years, was given a job that involved a large amount of grinding and polishing.

After a few hours on the job, he began to experience numbness and tingling, commonly an indicator of exposure to high levels of vibration.  He asked to swap with another worker but he was told by his supervisor to carry on with the work.

A few weeks later, a 20 year old apprentice welder also began to suffer from vibration-related symptoms after using similar equipment.

An HSE investigation found that Newfield Fabrications failed to control employees’ exposure to hand arm vibration. The firm also failed to give its employees sufficient information, instruction and training on the effects of working with vibrating hand tools.

Newfield Fabrications pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 6(1) and 8(1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations.

According to the company’s accounts, it had a turnover of £7.7m in 2016 and made a pre-tax profit of £118,826.00 and so the £120,000.00 fine plus the £7241.00 costs is a significant sum for its Directors to find.

HSE inspector Helen Jones said:

“This is a case of the company failing to protect workers using vibrating tools. Exposure to hand arm vibration is a well-known risk which the company failed to adequately control.

“The company also failed to ensure workers were looked after when symptoms did arise leading to further exposure. This was wholly inadequate, and led to two employees suffering significant health effects.”

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Highly flammable liquids fire burns spray booth operator

We have to be truthful and admit that we sometimes carry out tasks which in hindsight we could have done with far less risk.  It could be driving to work or what we do at home at the weekend away from the eyes of our colleagues and managers.

The case below highlights how susceptible we are to complacency.  We work with items everyday which carry with them great risks but we rarely suffer consequences for taking shortcuts. That in turn leads to greater and greater risk taking until an accident finally occurs.  Read the case below to find out what happened in this instance.

A paint manufacturing company in Manchester has been fined for health and safety failings after a worker suffered burns while trying to clean the floor of a spray booth.

Manchester Crown Court heard how an employee of HMG Paints Ltd was using a highly flammable solvent to clean the floor of a spray booth on site, a job he had done several times since the spray booth was installed.

After complaints about how difficult it was to remove the dried paint he was allowed to purchase an industrial floor scrubber to carry out the task. On 18 November 2014 electric motor on the floor scrubber ignited the cloud of flammable vapour that had built up in the spray booth.

The employee was seriously injured, receiving 26% burns, and was treated at the specialist burns unit at Wythenshawe Hospital.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the planning for cleaning floors using solvent failed to recognise the hazards and level of risk associated with the use of highly flammable solvents to clean floors. The employee who was injured had not been trained to clean floors and was not adequately supervised when carrying out the cleaning activity.

HMG Paints Limited, of Collyhurst Road, Manchester, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £39,669.40.

Speaking after the case HSE inspector David Myrtle said:

“This is a company that handles large quantities of flammable solvent, the hazards are well known and the company has a duty to control the risks arising from the hazards.

“It was custom and practice to clean floors using highly flammable solvents applied using a mop and bucket. In this instance the company failed to adequately control the risks and an employee was seriously injured.” [source HSE]

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Could Health and Safety Fines rise even higher? Probably….

HSEWe have seen fines for health and safety offences increases by 10-15 x their former levels since the Sentencing Guidelines were introduced in 2016 (see our earlier article for more information).

A recent article by Dr Simon Joyston-Bechal of Turnstone Law discusses sentences applying to individuals who have put cost cutting before safety being increased to 8 or more years in prison.  More worryingly, where the two aspects for consideration under the existing sentencing guidelines are triggered you could also be moved into the very high category with a starting point of 12 years in jail (and a range of 10-18 years).

These are in consultation at present on the Sentencing Councils website and it seems from the examples used that the Council would wish to see higher fines introduced in the case of health and safety offences.  They are not law yet but it does look increasingly likely that these revisions will make it through to becoming law.

You can read the article in more detail on the SHP website here; Gross negligence manslaughter: ‘Sit up & take note’ as jail terms increase

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Oxygen explosion causes worker severe injury and costs firm £1m fine

Oxygen is used throughout many sectors of industry and healthcare.  This common element can be taken for granted as we are so familiar with its name and its use.

Are you aware that;

  1. increasing the concentration of oxygen in air from its normal 21% to just 24% can make an enormous difference  in how easily items will catch alight;
  2. They will also be far harder to put out once they are burning and will burn much more fiercely;
  3. Oxygen which is pure and at high pressure (from a cylinder or supply line for example) can react spontaneously with oils, greases and other materials causing them to catch light;
  4. Nearly all materials including textiles, rubber and even metals will burn vigorously in the presence of pure oxygen.

More information on all of the above and the correct precautions which must be in place can be found here; http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg459.pdf

Below is an accident which illustrates the dangers of bad practices around oxygen.  If you need helps and support on these and other issues please do contact us for more information.

Case Law: Oxygen Pipe Explosion

Sheffield Crown court heard that work was carried out by an in-house contractor to fit a valve to an oxygen pipe that carried 99.9 per cent pure oxygen in August 2013

The worker was checking the work when he heard hissing from the valve. When investigating the noise, the pipe and valve erupted in flames causing the person to suffer 60- 70 per cent burns.

As a result of the severe injuries he suffered he was initially not expected to survive and underwent several skin grafts whilst being kept in a coma for several weeks.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the oxygen pipe had been fitted with contaminated second-hand flanges and butterfly valves containing materials unsuitable for use with oxygen.

Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Limited of Brightside Lane, Sheffield pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and were fined £1,000,000 with £58,000 costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Carol Downes commented: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simple carrying out correct control measure and safe work practices.”

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standard.”

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Case Law: Diversion of workers to maintenance tasks

It can be tempting to allow staff, particularly those who are helpful and keen, to undertake others tasks within your workplace.  You can sometimes hear a staff member state “I could have sorted that for you!”

When you have staff which have worked in other roles through  a diverse career and the work seems reasonably straightforward it can seem like you’re able to make a significant saving or get the work carried out more quickly.

However, you should also consider the lessons which can be learnt from the case below and many like it.

Kent based Erith Haulage Company Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005, was fined £215,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £10,622 after an employee fell four and a half metres through a fragile skylight onto a concrete floor while cleaning a roof.

The cleaning was undertaken by two drivers, requested by the company’s foreman and took place on the weekend of the 17 and 18 January 2015.

A Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP) was hired for the cleaning, but when one of the drivers could not reach a section of the roof from the MEWP he got out and stood on the roof not realising that the roof contained fragile skylights.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting told the court the roof in question was metal with gutters running along it. The skylights were located in strips over the portion of roof but were covered in dirt discolouring them and making them appear similar colour to the roof itself.

After some time cleaning, the driver noticed a section of roof left uncleaned and while walking along a section of the roof he fell through one of these skylights. He landed on a concrete floor some 4.5 metres below.

HSE prosecuted the company for its failure to ensure that work at height was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner which was safe, so far as reasonably practicable.

The court heard neither driver had received training or information regarding the use of the MEWP, no edge protection was in place around the roof edges to prevent falls from height, no harness or netting was used (e.g. harnesses or netting) to minimise the distance or consequences of a fall, the fragile roof lights were not covered or edge protected to prevent falls from height.

The fall caused the man to spend a month in hospital sustaining significant injuries including a fracture to the base of his skull, multiple facial fractures, and whiplash. He also suffered damage to bones in both arms which needed pins and plates, as well as leg injuries.  He was, in fact, lucky to still be alive.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Megan Carr said:

“This easily preventable incident resulted in life changing injuries to this man.  I want this case to raise awareness within the industry and amongst companies in general, that proper planning and operation of work at height is imperative. This case highlights the very serious consequences that may arise from oversight.”

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