Category Archives: In the courts

Company owner given suspended sentence and fine after worker’s death

Gordon Leach from Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire, appeared in front of Peterborough Crown Court after a worker he hired was crushed to death in his print room.

Mr Leach, who trades as RGE Engineering Company, was held liable for ineffective guarding after his employee’s head was crushed between the pads and printing table of a machine, which she had entered in order to add thinners to the ink reservoir.

In addition to fines and costs of £52,500 the judge handed down a 15-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years.

£2m fine for builders’ merchant who ran over customer

In an example of how the new Sentencing Guideline will affect the level of punishment for safety offences, Travis Perkins were fined £2m after a 42-year-old customer was hit by a reversing company vehicle in the yard at the Milton Keynes branch.

Amersham Crown Court heard that the customer was loading planks of wood when a strap broke and he fell into the adjacent parking space. He was then struck by an approaching vehicle that was intending to park in the space.

Travis Perkins had not complied with their own policy of using a banksman when pedestrians were in the nearby area. Costs of £115,000 were also imposed on the firm.

Liability for washing-up injury

In a case that has implications for almost all employers, a worker at St Anne’s Primary School in Derry received £30,000 in damages and costs including lost earnings after an injury when doing the washing up.

The handle came off a mug that had been brought to work by someone else, and cut the arm and tendon of employee Mrs Rooney. This required extensive medical treatment and a year off work.

The employer, Western Education and Library Board, had argued that the mug was not supplied as work equipment but Justice Deeny decided in the High Court that all mugs, cups, plates and cutlery being used at the school did come within the regulations. Despite the fact the employer had no duty to provide a kitchen in the first place, once they had taken the decision to provide such as facility, they then became responsible for its safe use and for ensuring that equipment was in good condition.

Royal Mail fined

Medway Magistrates’ Court has fined the Royal Mail £50,000 after a worker had his foot run over by a reach truck.

The court heard that vehicles and pedestrians were unable to circulate safely in the Rochester warehouse. It was noted that the injured worker was wearing ordinary footwear rather than protective toecaps at the time of the incident. Royal Mail also had to pay costs of £10,406.

Three prosecutions follow bad safety advice

Ipswich Crown Court handed down penalties to a furniture company and two health and safety consultancies after hand injuries were sustained using cutting machinery.

Jan Cavelle Furniture Company Ltd, at Haverhill, had allowed staff to follow unsafe working practices because of a lack of training and inadequate supervision. The risk assessments for the process had been prepared by external consultants. The contract was given to Worksafe Training & Consultancy Ltd who in turn subcontracted a review and revisions of risk assessments to Leading Health & Safety Consultants Ltd.

However, the assessments and procedures provided were not sufficient to control the risks. Jan Cavelle Furniture Company was fined £18,000 along with costs of £4,000. Workplace Training and Consultancy was found guilty at trial and was fined £22,500 with costs of £22,500. Leading Health and Safety Consultants Limited was fined £5,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £5,000.

Client and contractor fined for asbestos exposure

Firestone Estates Limited admitted a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and were ordered to pay £12,020 in fines and costs. They were in the process of converting a disused workplace into residential flats.

Two employees of a contractor they had appointed to carry out the refurbishment project, 24-Hour Maintenance Services Limited, were exposed to debris from asbestos insulation board. The client had failed to pass on details of the presence of asbestos to the contractor, and no refurbishment and demolition survey had been commissioned prior to work commencing. The contractor incurred fines and costs of around £6,500.

Farm manager jailed over workers’ deaths

A practice known as “scuba diving” led to the deaths of two agricultural workers in a nitrogen-filled apple store.

Winchester Crown Court heard that the two men were following a system of work devised by their manager, Andrew Stocker, and entered the store to retrieve produce for the Marden Fruit Show. This involved them accessing the store via a small hatch and holding their breath whilst selecting the choicest fruits.

The normal concentration of oxygen in air is around 21% and once it drops below 19.5% this is considered oxygen-deficient. Measurement in the apple store where the men suffocated showed only 1%.

Mr Stocker, who was away in the Maldives when the incident took place, admitted that his work practices exposed employees to a risk of death and was sentenced to 30 months in jail. Blackmoor Estate Limited was fined £75,000 with costs on top.

Fashion company fined for child’s death

Oxford Crown Court has fined Hugo Boss UK a total of £1.2m for breaches of safety legislation, with costs of £46,000, after the company admitted responsibility for the death of a child at its Bicester Village outlet. The fines were for breaches of the general duty towards a non-employee, and failing to adequately manage risks at the shop.

The incident concerned a 7ft high mirror weighing around 250lbs which had been left propped up against a wall for several months. It fell onto a 4-year-old boy who sustained brain damage and died a few days later in hospital. The court was told that there had been several similar incidents at the company’s other stores and it was a matter of good luck that no-one had been harmed before the tragic event at Bicester. Despite recommendations for such mirrors to be fixed to walls, a point previously covered in managers’ training, no action had been taken.

Near-drowning leads to fines for Councils

Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council were fined £9,000 and £4,000 respectively after a pupil from Ferryhill Primary School nearly died during a school excursion to Stonehaven Open Air Pool. Inadequate staffing and poor lifeguard positioning meant that the 11-year-old boy lay undetected at the bottom of the pool until spotted by a member of the public, who lifted him out.

Following cardiopulmonary resuscitation the boy, who had stopped breathing, regained consciousness and made a full recovery. Aberdeen City Council is responsible for the school, while the pool is operated by Aberdeenshire Council. Both admitted breaches of safety legislation.

Private school fined after tree-felling incident

Alpha Schools Limited appeared before Aylesbury Crown Court after a man helping to fell a tree was seriously injured. He was assisting a contractor who was brought in to clear a site, when a cut branch swung down and threw him off his ladder. The school’s owner was ordered to pay fines and costs of £60,000, while Paolo Mule (trading as P&X Complete Cleaning Services) received an 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years.

The injured man, who suffered permanent spinal injuries, was given an ex gratia payment of £50,000 by the school. The court heard that the school failed to select a competent contractor and the contractor had not made an assessment of the risk. No thought had been given to securing the ladder and the work zone was not cordoned off despite members of the public being in the area.