£1m+ Fines Rise Six-Fold in a Year
There has been a six-fold increase in fines of £1m or more for accidents and near-misses at work since the new sentencing guidelines were introduced in England and Wales.
The 20 largest fines imposed on businesses for safety and health offences last year totalled £38.6m, compared with £13.5m in 2015 and £4.3m in 2014, according to figures obtained by IOSH and law firm Osborne Clarke following a Freedom of Information Act request.
Since 1 February 2016, when the Sentencing Council's Definitive Guideline for Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences came into force, there have been 19 fines of £1m or more. In 2015 there were just three fines that exceeded £1m and in 2014 there were none.
Not all fines in the 2016 top 20 involved a fatality. The guidelines state that a large fine can also be handed down in the event of an injury, or if there was a substantial risk of injury or death.
For example, Alton Towers amusement park operator Merlin Entertainments was fined £5m - the highest financial penalty of 2016 and the UK's third largest safety fine - following a crash on its Smiler Rollercoaster on 2 June 2015. No one died but 16 people were injured, five of them seriously.
And film production company Foodles Production was ordered to pay £1.6m for safety breaches after Hollywood star Harrison Ford sustained a broken leg and dislocated ankle when he was crushed by a hydraulic door. The accident, which the Health and Safety Executive said could have resulted in more serious injury or even death, happened on 12 June 2014 while the actor was filming Star Wars: the force awakens.
Most fines imposed by courts in 2016 related to safety and health offences which took place before the guidelines were introduced.
Mary Lawrence, a partner at Osborne Clarke and an IOSH Council member, said: "The increase in fines being issued by the courts demonstrates a desire to drive the message home that ensuring health and safety within a working environment is fundamental. So while fines regularly exceeded the £1m mark last year, we can expect to see even larger fines going forward.
"I see many businesses who focus on the safety and health of employees and others experiencing a broad range of benefits, including being better placed to attract and retain talent, scoring points in procurements processes for valuable contracts or even when seeing external investment."
To mark the first anniversary of the new guidelines, IOSH and Osborne Clarke have produced a new report. Health and Safety Sentencing Guidelines One Year On analyses information from the FOI request, explores the guidelines' impact, and offers advice on how to prevent serious breaches that lead to fines. Visit: www.iosh.co.uk/sentencingguidelines
Shelley Frost, executive director of policy at IOSH, said: "Whilst you cannot put a value on human life, the level of fines now being handed out recognises society's disapproval of serious corporate failures that lead to injury, illness and death."
It reflects a desire to deter others from making the same errors and takes significant steps forward in aligning penalties for these offences with other regulatory breaches in the UK.
"Protecting employees and others affected by a business's operations will not only eliminate the risk of a large financial penalty but can also be key to ensuring and maintaining an organisation's strong reputation and ultimately contributing to its success."
Source: IOSH, February 2017
Half Workforce Suffers Work Related Sleep Loss
Occupational stress causes more than 50% of workers to lose sleep, according to new research from Bupa.
The healthcare specialist surveyed more than 2,000 workers in the UK last November and found that occupational stress kept 51% of workers awake at night, while 42% said it "ruined their life".
Stress was also found to cause physical sickness. More than half of the workforce (53%) reported that a poor work-life balance made them feel unwell, and a similar number (52%) said that work made them more unwell than anything in their personal lives.
Almost two thirds (64%) of respondents believed they would be significantly more productive at work if they were less stressed, while 76% said they had seen a colleague leave their place of work due to a lack of support.
They said they found workplace demands, such as presenting at an important meeting (71%) or managing a project (65%), as stressful as buying their first home (69%) or getting married (66%).
The majority (83%) of respondents said they expect their employers to do all they can to support their health and wellbeing, while 73% believed their employers could do more to support staff who have a mental or physical health issue.
Patrick Watt, Corporate Director at Bupa UK, said: "I'm happy to say thousands of businesses of all sizes are addressing this issue with their own people. But in doing so, they are recognising that the key challenge is no longer lack of awareness, but tackling stigma.
"As ever, prevention is as important, if not more, in tackling awareness and stigma associated with mental wellbeing conditions. From my experience, I know that workers are now more in touch with issues surrounding mental health and have increasing expectations that their employer will provide an environment which support their wellbeing.
So, creating an environment where people feel confident talking about and accessing mental wellbeing services is as important from a productivity perspective as it is in attracting and retaining new talent."
Source: IOSH, February 2017
Health & Safety Executive to Make Cost Recovery Dispute Process Fully Independent
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that it is to consult on proposals to make its cost recovery scheme dispute process fully independent.
The scheme, Fee For Intervention (FFI) was introduced in October 2012 to shift the cost of regulating workplace health and safety from the public purse to businesses which break the law and ensures the cost burden of HSE intervention is picked up by those companies and not taxpayers.
If an inspector identifies serious health and safety failings in the workplace about which they need to write to the dutyholder, then that dutyholder has to pay the costs of the HSE visit. If the inspector simply issues verbal advice there is no charge. If there is disagreement on HSE's decision the dutyholder can dispute it.
Until now, disputes were considered by a panel which consisted of two members from HSE and one independent person. However, after reviewing the current process HSE will consult with relevant stakeholders with a view to making the process fully independent.
A spokesperson for HSE said: "HSE has always kept the dispute process under review and following a recent application for a judicial review we believe the time is right to move to a dispute process which is completely independent of HSE."
Source: HSE, February 2017
Construction Company Director Imprisoned After Safety Failings
The director of a construction company has been imprisoned for eight months after failing to take appropriate action which resulted in a young worker receiving serious burns.
Cardiff Crown Court heard that the young worker was instructed to stand on top of a skip and pour a drum of flammable thinners onto the burning waste to help it to burn. The fireball that resulted when the thinners ignited caused the worker to be blown from the skip and he suffered substantial burns to his arms and legs.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company director did not ensure the burning of the waste material was being carried out in a safe or appropriate manner. He failed to administer any first aid to the young injured worker and did not send him to hospital, the most appropriate response given the severity of the injuries suffered. He failed to inform HSE of the incident, a legal requirement, and the incident was only reported sometime later by a third party.
David Gordon Stead of Mildred Street, Beddau, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and also pled guilty to breaching Section 4 (1) of The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) and was sentenced to 32 weeks imprisonment, half on release under licence. He has also been disqualified from being a company director for seven years.
Speaking after the case HSE inspector Adele Davies said "David Stead failed his employees. His actions could have resulted in the death of this worker. The young man suffered unnecessary life threatening injuries due to poor working standards.
"We hope this sentence sends out a message that directors of businesses must take their health and safety responsibilities seriously."
Source: HSE, February 2017
Steel Worker Suffers Life Threatening Injuries
A Canvey Island engineering firm was sentenced today for health and safety breaches after a worker suffered life-changing injuries.
Southend-on-Sea Magistrates' Court heard that on 10 June 2015 Felix Trefas, 27, a welder for F. Brazil Reinforcements Ltd, was making large steel reinforcing cages which were moved by overhead travelling cranes.
When one of these cranes broke down, a colleague asked Mr Trefas to climb more than an estimated six metres up the crane supports to re-set the controls. While Mr Trefas was resetting the faulty crane, his left leg was crushed when he came into contact with another overhead crane. His leg was later amputated below the knee.
The District Judge heard the overhead cranes were poorly maintained so that workers regularly had to work at height to re-set them and during the night shift this often involved workers climbing the crane support column.
Summing up he said this "horrific accident should never have happened" and that the company "should have had systems in place" to identify that unsafe access to the cranes was regularly occurring.
The court also heard the toilet and washing facilities for workers were in an extremely poor and dirty condition despite having been the subject of previous enforcement action by HSE.
F. Brazil Reinforcements Ltd of Romainville Way, Charfleets Industrial Estate, Canvey Island pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and to two separate breaches of Regulation 4 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
It was fined £277,000 in relation to the Section 3(1) charge, a single penalty of £5,000 in relation to the two breaches of Regulation 4, and ordered to pay £11,904 costs and £120 victim surcharge.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Sue Matthews commented: "It is essential that lifting equipment is properly maintained and that safe systems of work are in place for work at height. Employers have a duty to ensure that welfare facilities are kept clean.
"Felix is incredibly lucky that he was not killed in this incident but he has suffered permanent life-changing injuries. This preventable workplace accident has changed the life of a previously fit and hard-working young man irrevocably."
Source: HSE, February 2017
This has been produced in conjunction with Direct Safety Solutions with whom we work closely for Health & Safety Consultancy services. Please contact your Account Executive at Dunsby Associates initially if you require any further information or contact us on the following;
Tel 0121 631 3051