From million-pound plus fines to prison sentences, there have been some major prosecutions in occupational health and safety in 2017 – affecting household names such as Wilko, Warburtons, JD Sports, Travis Perkins, and Iceland.
The latest enforcement figures published by the Health and Safety Executive have shown a major rise in health and safety fines, of around 80%, from 2015/16 to 2016/17.
In the first full year where new sentencing guidelines have been in effect, fines have risen from over £35m to over £61m. Here, SHP brings together some of the key prosecutions from 2017.
Key cases from the past year:
1) Jail for bosses who tried to cover up details of 25-year-old’s fatal fall
Three company bosses were jailed following the death of 25-year-old father of one, Benjamin Edge, who fell from a roof he was working on, without safety equipment and in windy conditions.
Following the incident safety failings were covered up, a new risk assessment was written and an employee was “sent home to collect harnesses to make it look like the accident was Mr Edge’s fault, because he had not worn safety equipment” it was reported.
SR and RJ Brown Limited, of which brothers Christopher and Robert Brown are directors, was fined £300,000 at Manchester Crown Court after admitting corporate manslaughter.
Christopher Brown and Robert Brown pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and two counts of health and safety breaches. They were jailed for 20 months. A count of manslaughter for the brothers is to lie on file.
Mark Aspin, 37, was sentenced to a year in jail after admitting health and safety offences.
MA Excavations Ltd, of Garden Street, Ramsbottom, which contracted out the work – was fined £75,000 after pleading guilty to two health and safety breaches.
Employee Peter Heap, 34, was spared jail after he followed orders to bring safety harnesses to the site after his colleague had fallen to try to conceal what had happened. His four-month sentence for perverting the course of justice, which he had admitted, was suspended for two years.
2) Maximum jail term for plant hire manager following fatal incident
The 57-year-old manager of an access plant hire firm was sentenced to a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment for his neglect of health and safety obligations that led to the death of one man and caused serious injury to another.
After a 16 day trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court, Donald Craig was found guilty of a breach of health and safety legislation.
Donald Craig was convicted of health and safety breaches. He was jailed for two years – the maximum penalty possible.
Hamilton based Craig Services and Access Limited was fined after being found guilty of three charges relating to the collapse, including failures in relation to its maintenance and was fined a total of £61,000.
Another company, J M Access Solutions Ltd, was fined £30,000 for its failure to carry out a systematic and detailed thorough examination of the platform and its safety-critical parts.
3) Wilko fined £2.2m after “horrific workplace accident”
Household goods giant Wilko was fined £2.2million after an incident at a Leicester store left a 20-year-old female worker paralysed, after a cage full of paint tins fell on her.
Corisande Collins, a student working part-time at the Wilko store in the Beaumont Shopping Centre in August 2013, suffered severe spinal injuries after the heavily-laden metal cage fell while she was trying to manoeuvre it out from an uneven lift floor.
Passing sentence, His Honour Judge Ebraham Mooncey imposed the £2.2million fine for the first of the four Health and Safety offences – failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees – imposing no separate penalty for the other three related offences. The company was also ordered to pay £70,835 in costs.
4) Jaguar Land Rover fined £900,000 after worker loses leg
National car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover was fined after a worker lost their leg following a car collision on the production line.
Birmingham Crown Court heard that on Sunday 8 February 2015 at Jaguar’s Lode Lane plant in Solihull, a Range Rover Sport vehicle was driven toward the start of the production line, an event that normally happens 48 times an hour.
On this occasion, the delivery driver lost control of the car and collided with the rear of another vehicle he had just delivered, causing a four car shunt.
At the same time a worker was crossing the production line and became trapped between the second and third cars. His injuries resulted in the amputation of his right leg above the knee. Two other employees also suffered minor injuries.
Jaguar Land Rover, was found guilty of breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and fined £900,000 and ordered to pay costs of £49,800.
5) KFC to pay almost £1m after two employees suffer burns
Fast food restaurant chain KFC was ordered to pay almost £1 million after two of its employees suffered burns injuries at two Stockton Borough branches.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) Limited was fined £950,000 and ordered to pay £18,700 in costs at Teesside Crown Court following the incidents in July 2014 and December 2015.
The court heard that on 14 July 2014, a 16-year-old employee at the business’s Teesside Park restaurant suffered serious burns to his hands and arms after he was asked to remove hot gravy from a microwave while he was not wearing protective gloves.
In a separate incident on 1 December 2015, an employee at the chain’s Wellington Square branch in Stockton removed a tub of hot gravy from a microwave and it spilled, also causing serious burns to her body.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) Limited was ordered to pay a total of £950,000 in fines and £18,700 in costs at Teesside Crown Court following the incidents in July 2014 and December 2015.
“The safety of our team members is hugely important to us, so we were shocked by what happened. We have robust processes and procedures in place, but on these occasions, they were not followed and we have accepted the prosecution”. – Chief operating officer, Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) Limited, Rob Swain
6) Laing O’Rourke fined £800k after Heathrow Airport death
Construction firm Laing O’Rourke, was sentenced following the death of Philip Griffiths at Heathrow Airport in October 2014.
Southwark Crown Court heard that Philip’s brother Paul accidentally reversed into his 38-year-old sibling when the pair were trying to move a broken down scissor lift on a service road, while working for Laing O’Rourke.
Following the incident on 2 October 2014, Laing O’Rourke Construction Limited of Crossways in Dartford pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, was fined £800,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000.
7) £3.6m in fines after cleaner electrocuted on live rail
London and Southeastern (LSER) and Wetton Cleaning Services Limited (Wettons) were fined £2.5m and £1.1m respectively in a prosecution brought by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), following the death of a cleaner three years ago.
Roger Lower, 46, who had been working for Wettons for three months, was electrocuted after falling on a 750-volt live rail during his shift at West Marina Depot, near Hastings in East Sussex on 24 May 2014. The depot is operated by LSER.
Wettons was prosecuted under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. LSER was prosecuted under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. LSER and Wettons were ordered to pay costs of £162,000 each.
8) SAS selection deaths: Negligence charge following soldier fatalities
Two soldiers were charged with negligence following the deaths of three soldiers during an SAS selection march in the Brecon Beacons.
L/Cpl Edward Maher, L/Cpl Craig Roberts and Cpl James Dunsby were taking part in a 16-mile recruitment exercise on the hottest day of 2013. A coroner ruled they died from neglect.
“Our deepest sympathies remain with the families of all three soldiers and, with all the recommendations from this report having been or being addressed, we are committed to doing all we can to ensure such a tragic event cannot happen again”. – MOD
9) JD Sports fined after ignoring fire chiefs
Fashion retailer JD Sports was hit with a £60,000 fine following an investigation into two of its branches in Dudley.
The company admitted six offences, uncovered after an investigation by West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service.
The company was fined £10,000 for each of the six offences and ordered to pay costs of nearly £7,500.
10) Iceland Foods fined £2.5m following fatal accident
Iceland Foods Limited was fined £2.5 million at a sentencing hearing at Grimsby Crown Court, following a fatal accident at the the company’s store in Rotherham.
The incident, on 28 October 2013, happened when a contractor visited the store to replace filters within an air conditioning unit located on a plant plaform above a suspending ceiling, which was located in the store’s warehouse.
The company was fined £1.25 million for each offence and ordered to pay the full costs of £65,019.64 to Rotherham Council.
11) Tata Steel successfully appealed £1.98m fine
The steelmaker appealed its conviction for two separate sentences after two workers’ hands were trapped in unguarded machinery.
The appeal is significant, since it is the first to have achieved a reduction in fine due to likelihood-of-harm under the ‘new’ sentencing guidelines – introduced in 2016.
Three appeal court judges, headed by Lord Justice Gross, ruled on 7 June 2017 the categorisation of the likelihood-of-harm for the steelmaker’s second offence under the sentencing guidelines issued to judges should have been medium and not high, as was originally judged.
The appeal court reduced the fine for that offence to £1.3m from £1.8m, bringing the revised total penalty down to £1.5m.
12) Aldi Stores fined £1m for worker’s severe injuries
Aldi Stores Ltd was fined £1 million and ordered to pay £70,000 in cost after a delivery driver who had only worked for the firm for two weeks suffered severe injuries to his foot while operating an electric pallet truck at one of its stores.
The Council’s lead investigating officer, Julia Cope said: “This accident resulted in very nasty injuries to a driver who had been asked to carry out work using equipment for which his employer had failed to provide structured and necessary formal training.”
13) Warburtons fined £1.9m after agency worker is injured
Bread giant Warburtons received a £1.9m fine after pleading guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, after an agency worker was injured when his arm became trapped in a machine for 20 minutes.
The company, which registers an annual pre-tax profit of £34m, was also fined £2m earlier this year following an incident in which a worker sustained life changing injuries following a fall. Prior to the changes to the sentencing guidelines the company was fined £5,000 in 2014 after a worker seriously injured his hand.
Warburtons Ltd of Mushroom Farm Eastwood, Nottingham, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was fined £1.9 million and ordered to pay full costs of £21,459.71.
“The health and safety of all our people is our first priority and we are deeply saddened that on this occasion our procedures failed to protect Wayne. We have taken the necessary action across our bakeries to prevent this happening again”. – Warburtons
14) Sentencing hearing: construction boss jailed after death of two workers
A construction company boss was sent to jail for 14 months following the death of two employees from a balcony fall in London’s Cadogan Square.
Martin Gutaj, of Ferry Lane, Brentford, was convicted after he failed to undertake an adequate risk assessment and offer training to two construction workers who fell to their deaths trying to lift a sofa over balcony railings and through an upper floor window.
15) Million pound fine for council after member of public injured
Nottinghamshire County Council was fined after a member of the public was struck by a council tractor. They were fined £1,000,000 for the incident and ordered to pay costs of £10,269.85.
The council pleaded guilty to charges of breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
The HSE investigation also found that the council had failed to train workers to the required level needed to safety operate the mounted grab and act as a banksman. It was found that the machine was not suitable.
16) £1.8m fine after lone worker drowns in “accident waiting to happen”
South West Water have been fined £1.8 million following the death of lone worker, Robert Geach, who drowned in a filtration tank. It was an “accident waiting to happen” according to the judge sitting at Truro Crown Court on Friday 21st April 2017.
Father-of two, Robert Geach, died in December 2013. He was working to unblock a filter at the Falmouth Water Treatment Works and fell though a hole into 6.5ft of water.
17) £2 million fine after worker killed by bales
A worker died when plastic bales fell on top of him while he was cleaning a storage yard.
Father of one Jacek Adamowicz, 29, was cleaning the yard on 4 February 2015 when a number of plastic bales weighing 703kg fell towards him trapping him against the ground. Manchester Crown Court was told that Hitchen Foods, owned by the Bakkavor Group, had failed to consider and properly plan the stacking and storage of the bales.
Bakkavor Foods Limited Foods of Dobson Park Way, Wigan plead guilty to breaches of Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work at 1974 and was fined £2million with £32,595.10 costs.
18) £700k fines and suspended sentence following multiple ‘preventable’ deaths
Four workers were fatally crushed at an excavation site in Norfolk, resulting in two companies being fined £700,000 and a director receiving a suspended prison sentence.
The Court at the Old Bailey heard that on 21 January 2011 the men were constructing a large steel structure as part of the foundation for a large Pressure Test Facility (PTF) at Claxton Engineering Services in Great Yarmouth.
Written by Lauren Applebey