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The Price of Failure

If there was ever a reason to take health and safety seriously, then you only have to look at the recent court decision following the Alton Towers “Smiler” ride crash.

Merlin Attractions, the operator of the “Smiler” ride at Alton Towers which crashed on 2nd June 2015 injuring 16 people has just been fined £5 million for it’s failings that day, following a Health and Safety Executive prosecution.  On 27th September 2016, the company admitted breaching the health and safety legislation and was sentenced to the record fine.  It is worth noting that had it not pleaded guilty, the company could have been fined in the region of £7.5 million.

The investigation established that engineers had not been given clear guidance on how to deal with a stationary car on the tracks. They were left “without guidance from above” according to the court. The manufacturer’s manual for operating the ride stipulated that the ride should not be operated in winds above 34mph.  On that day the wind speed was approaching 45 mph.  But engineers on the day had not read or seen the operating manual.  The court decided that the failings were down to the higher management of Merlin Attractions, not human error and this led to the fine that was imposed.

These failings contributed to 16 passengers sustaining serious injuries, many of them life-changing.  They have also cost Merlin Attractions the £5 million fine (calculated from their accounts for the last three years) and in all likelihood hundreds of thousands, if not millions more, in investigation costs, lost revenue, legal fees and insurance costs.  

Matt Aldwinckle, Regulatory solicitor at Cartwright King, commented;
“This case, and the sentence passed by the court, sends a clear message out to the business community that health and safety must be taken seriously. The lasting effects on the victims of the crash, and the size of this fine, show that health and safety duties and obligations should be in the forefront of the minds of higher management and employees alike. Health and Safety is definitely something to be taken seriously. The price of failure can have serious implications for all those involved.”

Cartwright King has a dedicated and specialist regulatory team that provides advice and representation in all types of regulatory law, including health and safety.

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