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May the Foreseeability be with You: Health & Safety Executive Blog 7

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 week we look at the potential dangers from pieces of equipment in the workplace and what can happen if the correct safety precautions are not followed.

Andrew Brammer, Head of Regulatory law at Cartwright King and specialist health and safety lawyer commented:

“May the foreseeability be with you? Putting aside the awful pun, these two cases illustrate the issue of foreseeability and risk management. Employers need to think carefully about those risks of harm that might not be immediately obvious, but by any measure, are foreseeable. The courts have variously defined foreseeable risk as something that is not hypothetical, trivial or fanciful. When deciding what reasonably practicable steps are required to manage a risk of harm, employers need to assess the foreseeability of that risk. Ultimately it is the assessment of the risk that is crucial. If there is no risk assessment then it will be very difficult to argue that a risk was managed to a point where it was as low as reasonably practicable”.

Film Set Accident

The production company who produced Star Wars: The Force Awakens have pleaded guilty for failing to protect actors and workers after a serious accident involving Harrison Ford occurred whilst filming.

Mr Ford suffered a broken leg among other injuries after a metal door on the film set fell on him on 12th June 2014 at Pinewood Studios.

The London based Production Company appeared at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court on 26th July and pleaded guilty to two charges. The case has been transferred to Aylesbury Crown Court.

A HSE spokesman said:
“During the filming of Star Wars Episode Seven: The Force Awakens, the actor Harrison Ford was badly injured after he became trapped under a rapidly closing metal-framed door. The power of the door’s drive system was comparable to the weight of a small car.

“Every employer in every industry has a legal duty to manage risks in the workplace. Risks are part and parcel of everyday life, and this is acknowledged by health and safety law – but they still need to be identified and managed in a proportionate way.

“The British film industry has a world renowned reputation for making exceptional films. Managing on-set risks in a sensible and proportionate way for all actors and staff – regardless of their celebrity status – is vital to protecting both on-screen and off-screen talent, as well as protecting the reputation of the industry.”

Rocket Motor Incident

A Worcestershire based engineering company has been fined in excess of £380,000 due to safety failings concerning a motor.

Worcester Crown Court heard how one of the company’s employees was inspecting a rocket motor for damages during the manufacturing process. It is believed that a fibre optic light was used to illuminate a conduit on the ‘charge’ of the motor which ignited the propellant due to the heat from the light.

Once ignited, the charge burned for approximately 10 seconds which in turn set the room on fire. This room contained various explosives and a rocket motor, with a further 230kg of explosive charges in the magazine that was next to the room with the doors still being open at the time. When this incident occurred, there were a total of three people in the area, but luckily nobody was hurt. On inspection, it was clear that propellants and charges could have been ignited by the charge and any fires it caused.

The company were not able to inform the emergency services of the level of risk and did not know what explosives were in the building. It took over an hour for the company to understand the hazards present.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation took place on 16th November 2012 and found that there was a lack of assessment of the risks and no safe system of work in place. It was found that the emergency plan was not put in place. 

The firm subsequently pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and Regulation 12 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards 2015, and was fined £386,000 and ordered to pay costs of £60,000.

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