Archive for December, 2014

Recycling Industry: Workplace Death:Health And Safety Prosecution

Recycling industry death: £150,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v European Metal Recycling Ltd (2014) Warwickshire Crown Court, December 19

European Metal Recyclimg Ltd has been fined following the death of a worker.

Significant points of the case

  • In October 2011 William Ward was working at the company’s site in Kingsbury, Warwickshire. He was dismantling a metal barge, which weighed 33 tonnes, using an oxy-acetylene torch.
  • The barge collapsed on top of him, causing fatal crush injuries.
  • The subsequent HSE investigation found serious flaws with the method of work. The company had failed to do enough to protect workers and to ensure that contractors on site were competent and were working safely.
  • The company was responsible for the deceased’s safety and for ensuring that the barge was being dismantled in a safe manner.

The company was fined £150,000 plus £80,000 costs for a breach of section 3, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees.

Charity And The Law: The Institutionalisation Of Food Banks In A Rich Country

The Labour government which came to power in 1945 was committed to replace charitable good works in essential public services with state-provided welfare. Aneurin Bevan, who created the National Health Service, was passionately opposed to the patronising reliance upon private charity for the treatment of the sick. Bevan was involved in the formation of the Tredegar Medical Aid Society. This is fully discussed in Michael Foot’s biography of Bevan. The Society has been described as the forerunner of the National Health Service. It involved workers clubbing together and paying small regular sums into a fund for the payment of doctors and hospital services. Foot points out that the Society partly achieved the aim of making the cost of sickness a communal burden, thus lifting the worst shadow which fell across working-class homes.

The creation of the legal aid and advice scheme was part of the same reforms. The scheme is now in tatters. The huge gaps left by the withdrawal of the state from legal help for the poor are, it appears, to be filled by the adoption of conditional fee agreements, private charity, the whim of the rich, benevolent lawyers and detailed regulations issued by insurance companies.


Yorkshire Mining Museum Death: Health And Safety Prosecution

Yorkshire Mining Museum death: £590,000 fines and costs

Health and Safety Executive v Amalgamated Construction Ltd, Metal Innovations Ltd and National Coal Mining Trust (2014) Sheffield Crown Court, December 16.

Three organisations have been prosecuted and fined following the death of a worker at the Yorkshire Mining Museum.

Significant points of the case

  • In January 2011 Michael Buckingham was killed when he was crushed between a tunnel construction machine and a dumper loader, 138 metres below ground level at the museum’s site in Wakefield.
  • The deceased was working on an improvement project which included constructing new tunnels. The museum trust had engaged Amalgamated Construction to build the tunnels, using machines supplied by Metal Innovations. The deceased was an employee of Amalgamated Construction.
  • The HSE’s specialist mining division served a prohibition notice on Metal Innovations on the basis that the dumper loader did not meet essential safety requirements. It was patently dangerous in several ways.
  • Amalgamated Construction had failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment of the machine or the work activities, including the interactions of workers and equipment, and had exposed workers to substantial risk by putting an unsafe machine to work.
  • The museum trust had failed to ensure that the mine was run in accordance with all relevant safety regulations.

Amalgamated Construction was fined £110,000 plus £245,000 costs for a breach of section 2, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees and under regulation 3, Management of Health and Safety Regulations, for failing to make a suitable risk assessment.

Metal Innovations Ltd was fined £80,000 plus £110,000 costs under section 6, HSW Act, for supplying an article for use at work without ensuring that it was safe and without risks to health.

Low Pay And Zero-hours Contracts On The Rise

Last week, a TUC report stated that 1 in 12 in the labour force were now in “precarious employment”, which includes:
• zero-hours contracts
• agency work
• variable hours
• fixed term contracts
2.14 million people are now casualised staff. The TUC also reports that since 2008, only 1 in 40 new jobs that have been created were full-time.

While employers frequently suggest that casual work leads on to more permanent positions, the Work Foundation highlights that only 44% of zero-hours contact jobs last for 2 years or more, with only 25% lasting for 5 years or more. Despite political and social concern over the use of zero-hours contracts, 3.1% of the UK workforce has such a contract.

With the economy now fighting back after years in recession, it is time that the UK employment market reacted. Employment legislation is long overdue in ensuring that casualised workers are still protected workers.

Gloucester Workplace Death From Crushing: Health And Safety Prosecution

Crushing death: £80,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Complete Utilities Ltd (2014) Gloucester Crown Court, December 12

Complete Utilities Ltd, a contracting company, has been fined following the death of an employee from crushing injuries.

Significant points of the case

  • In October 2012 Spencer Powles, an employee of Complete, was working at the company’s site in Gloucester.
  • He was crushed between a telehandler and a metal shipping container and suffered fatal abdominal injuries.
  • The operator of the telehandler braked suddenly when he saw Powles. The vehicle lurched forward and trapped Powles between the vehicle and a container.
  • The operator of the telehandler had not receive proper training from a qualified instructor. The site was disorganised and chaotic with no measures to organise traffic or safely separate vehicles and pedestrians.
  • No safe system of work for the lifting of items had been out in place and the telehandler was poorly maintained.

The company was fined £80,000 plus £27,000 costs for a breach of section 2, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that workplace transport was the second biggest cause of fatal and major incidents in the workplace. Employers must ensure that all drivers are properly trained by qualified, competent instructors for the vehicles they are operating.

Tippet: An Explanation

Tippet: For those, like me, who have no idea what a tippet is, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gives the following guidance:

  • A long narrow strip of cloth or hanging part of dress, either attached to and forming part of the hood, head-dress or sleeve, or loose, as a scarf or the like
  • A garment, usually of fur or wool, covering the shoulders, or the neck and shoulders; a cape or short cloak
  • A band of silk or other material worn round the neck, with the two ends pendent from the shoulders in front
  • A hangman’s rope


LAW – Robert’s New Book – Another Extract – EP Thompson On Class Justice

Law as a weapon of class conflict

  1. P. Thompson made the following points about English law in the historical context of class:

The common law tradition has so frequently been associated with concepts of fundamental right and justice that it is at first startling to find that it was used as the main doctrinal justification for preventing the advancement of working people of both sexes, notably in conspiracy cases, and of women of the upper and middle classes, primarily in the male monopoly cases. What maintained continuity between the ideas of the common law over the centuries was that it continued to be the instrument of the judges and to express in a vigorous if indirect form the interest of the social group with whom the judges were associated. The fundamental rights of the English people thus amounted to little more than the fundamental rights of the judges, and chief amongst these was the right to determine how social claims could be legally classified and what procedures should be followed for their enforcement.

Lawyer Jokes: An Extract From Robert’s New Book – LAW

Lawyer jokes (found on the Internet)

  • What is the difference between lawyers and sperm? There’s no difference: one in 50 million has a chance of becoming a human being.
  • Why is it prohibited for lawyers to have sex with their clients? To prevent the client being charged twice for the same service.
  • It was so cold in Aberdeen one winter’s day that a lawyer was seen with his hands in his own pockets.
  • The problem with the legal profession is that 99 per cent of lawyers give the others a bad name.
  • What’s the difference between a lawyer and an onion? You cry when you cut up an onion.
  • How many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb? Three. One to climb the ladder. One to shake the ladder. One to sue the ladder company.
  • Mark Twain: It is interesting to note that criminals have multiplied of late, and lawyers have also, but I repeat myself.
  • Legal problems? Take my advice:
  1. Don’t trust lawyers.
  2. Treat lawyers as you would treat sharks.
  3. Keep away from lawyers as far as possible.
  4. Don’t pay lawyers.
  1. If you have no choice but to consult a lawyer, be choosy, critical, questioning and cynical.

Conspiracy Law, Class and Society

The common law has produced a few remarkable legal historians, but they have so far applied a lawyer’s rather than a historian’s mind to their task. Robert Spicer has approached the history of conspiracy, both the crime and the civil wrong, with a good overview of the social and political background. The result is quite startling. Not only are we reminded of the marked disfavour in which generations of lawyers have held the notion of conspiracy law, not only do we see judges of vast experience, learning and sobriety yielding to the crudest of their prejudices and bias, but we can actually make out, perhaps for the first time, the real explanation of some of the conflicting decisions.

Mr Spicer is to be congratulated on his valuable survey. By putting each phase of the development of the legal concept of conspiracy into the circumstances of its day, he greatly illuminates this rather murky corner of the law.

(John Platts-Mills)

New Law Journal Article On Robert’s New Book – LAW

Law is a radical and accessible look at the English legal system. It aims to set out a highly critical examination of the English legal system and legal profession. The politicised nature of the critique distinguishes the book from others and provides an alternative approach currently lacking from legal publications.

This book starts with an analysis of the central role of money in the English legal system. It deals with the concept of class justice and includes material on dissenting voices of law, law as an industry, the demystification of law and the legality of the Iraq War. It concludes with realistic proposals for alternative legal practice.