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Health and Safety Executive: Recent Cases Blog

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a regulatory body in the United Kingdom that is responsible for the encouragement and enforcement of health and safety within the workplace. In our weekly review of recent HSE cases we explore current trends and topics of interest from this week’s HSE Bulletin. This time we look at the potential fatal consequences of failing to take the necessary safety precautions.

Andrew Brammer, Head of Regulatory Defence Services at Cartwright King commented, “In simple terms, the law requires every employer to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which employees and others are exposed from workplace activities. The HSE recommends five steps to risk assessment: identify the hazards, decide who might be harmed and how, evaluate the risks and take precautions, record significant findings and review if necessary. These cases tragically illustrate how failures to properly assess risks can have catastrophic consequences.”

Trench Collapse

An infrastructure company based in Sheffield have been fined £2.6 million after one of their employees was killed in a fatal accident while working on one of their projects in Lancashire.

On 14th April 2010, the sub-contractor was engaged in works for a new offshore wind farm laying ducting cable in a 2.4 metre deep trench without any shoring. Tragically he was killed after becoming trapped in the trench when it collapsed on him.

An investigation was conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which led to the company pleading guilty at Preston Crown Court. During the proceedings, the court heard how they had failed to adequately risk assess the works or control the way in which the excavation took place.

 The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Regulation 31(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and was fined £2.6 million with £54,000 costs.

HSE inspector Chris Hatton said: “The level of this fine should serve as a warning to industry not to ignore health and safety matters.”

Roof Fall

A plumbing company based in Birmingham has been fined after one of their employees was killed after falling from a five-storey roof on 10th October 2014.

Birmingham Crown Court heard how the company was contracted to carry out repairs to two motor rooms which were on the roof of a building in the city.

Two of the employees set up a station outside of a protected area in order to mix mortar due to a lack of space. This working environment included a tarpaulin sheet which was placed on top of the roof with a plasterer’s bath placed on top. The corners of the tarpaulin sheet were weighted down with bags of rubble as a precaution.

Towards the end of the day, the two employees cleaned their area and moved the mixing bath during which time the tarpaulin sheet blew open due to the weather conditions and landed over the edge of the building. In an attempt to retrieve the sheet, one of the workers fell off the side of the building, falling 14 metres and suffering fatal injuries.

An investigation which was conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that the company had failed to ensure the safety of its employees during the external repair work.

The company consequently pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,000.

HSE Inspector Amy Kalay said: “This incident was obviously foreseeable. The employees working at the site were effectively left to their own devices with equipment and a system that was not wholly suited for the task at hand.

A suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk, suitable planning, implementation of suitable control measures and adequate and effective site supervision would have prevented this incident from occurring.”

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