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Archive for July, 2015

Molten sulphur burns: health and safety prosecution

Molten sulphur burns: £20,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Total Lindsey Oil Refinery (2015) Grimsby magistrates’ court, June 12

Total Lindsey Oil Refinery has been fined following an incident in which a worker suffered burns from molten sulphur.

Significant points of the case

  • In October 2013 Jack Vickers, a tanker driver, was loading molten sulphur into his vehicle at the company’s premises in North Lincolnshire.
  • He was detaching a special loading lance when he stepped into an open manway lid into molten sulphur. The 140 degree molten sulphur caused serious burns to his right leg.
  • The company had no effective safe system of work in place in relation to the attaching and detaching of the loading lance. The hazard of working on top of the tanker had not been adequately identified or assessed.
  • The HSE served an improvement notice on the company to ensure that safe systems for loading were introduced.

The company was fined £20,000 plus £2600 costs with £120 victim surcharge for a breach of section 3, HSW Act.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that loading molten sulphur was a common task within the refining industry. Total had two other loading units on site with a different system whereby a loading lance does not have to be attached to a loading arm.


Care home deaths: recent prosecutions

Care homes: recent prosecutions

Prosecutions of care home owners (whether individuals or companies) for serious breaches of health and safety regulations, often with tragic consequences, are reported with depressing regularity. The following summaries illustrate the range of breaches which have been successfully prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive.

In March 2015 GA Projects Ltd, the company which owns the Meppershall Care Home in Bedfordshire, and Mohammed Zarook, the company’s director, were fined following the death of a resident.

In August 2010 May Ward, aged 100, was being moved by two carers at the Home. She fell from a hoist and suffered multiple fatal injuries.

The two carers had been employed for less than a year. The hoist used to move Mrs Ward had a complex operating procedure and the carers had not been trained in how to use it safely. The hoist was not recommended by the local authority as being suitable for Mrs Ward’s condition. She was not securely positioned and when she moved forwards she fell out.

There was a history of serious safety breaches at the Home. The HSE had served five improvement notices between October and December 2010 related to resident handling, risk assessment and a lack of competent health and safety advice.

Another resident had suffered leg fractures after falling when being moved from a wheelchair to an armchair in September 2009.

Zarook had no knowledge or experience of running care homes. He proceeded to take vulnerable residents into his three care homes. There was no evidence that he had taken steps to fulfil his health and safety obligations through the provision of training and the management of risks most commonly associated with the care industry, including resident handling.

The Care Quality Commission had inspected the Home and had given it poor ratings. The Home was closed in July 2013.

GA Projects Ltd was fined £50,000 plus £36,000 costs for a breach of section 3, Health and Safety at Work, etc Act (HSW Act), for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees.

Zarook was fined £150,000 plus £100,000 costs under section 37, HSW Act.

 

In January 2015 Western Park Leicester Ltd, a company which owns a care home in Leicester, was been fined following the death of a vulnerable patient.

In May 2012 Walter Powley, aged 85, was admitted to Western Park View, a care home, after his family was advised that he could not be safely left at home because of his risk of falling.

Powley fell in his room at the home. He was trapped between a wardrobe and a radiator. He suffered serious burns to his legs from the radiator pipe and valves. The injuries were fatal.

The pipes and valves were not covered and had temperatures of 73 degrees centigrade.

The company was aware that the deceased was at risk of falls and injury and that staff should be vigilant. It had failed to assess the risks in his room and had not taken appropriate action to control and manage the risks.

The company was fined £100,000 plus £35,000 costs for a breach of section 3, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that this had been a foreseeable and preventable fatal accident. The scalding or burning risks from the pipes were longstanding and could have caused injury to any resident. The company had failed to heed published guidance from the HSE about the need to cover hot pipes and valves.

 

 

In November 2014 Hafod Care Association Ltd, the owner of Brocastle Manor Care Home in Bridgend, was fined after an elderly resident suffered fatal injuries.

In November 2010 Olga Llewellyn, a 92-year old resident at the home, suffered fatal injuries when she fell from her bedroom window.

All the windows at the home were fitted with the same type of window restrictors. These were unsuitable because they could be easily overridden and the windows opened wide.

The company was fined £96,000 plus £100,000 costs for a breach of section 3, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees.

An HSE inspector made the following comments after the case:

  • Between 2005 and 2010 there were 21 fatal accidents from falls from windows.
  • Window restrictors should restrict the opening to 100 mm, be robust and not able to be overridden without the use of a specialist tool or key.
  • In this case, the risks were particularly high because of the very low window sill height.

 

Greencroft Care Ltd, the owner of Greencroft Nursing Home in Queensferry, Deeside, was fined in September 2014 following the death of a resident.

In August 2012 Beatrice Morgan, aged 88, a resident of the care home who was unable to walk, was lowered into a bath using a hoist. She cried out when she touched the water and suffered nine per cent burns from the scalding water. She later died from her injuries.

The temperature of the water was not properly controlled to prevent it exceeding 44 degrees Celsius. Mixing valves had been fitted to control the temperature but they had not been properly maintained.

Staff at the home had been instructed to check the temperature of bath water with a thermometer but no checks were made by management to ensure that this was done. The company had failed to adequately assess the risks of using hot water and had failed to provide sufficient training, instruction and supervision.

The company was fined £5000 for a breach of section 3, HSW Act. The court commented that if the company had not been in liquidation, the fine would have been at least £100,000.

A spokesperson for the HSE commented after the case that the incident could have been avoided if the company had observed the readily available guidance on bathing vulnerable people. Nursing homes and other organisations caring for vulnerable people must make sure that they fit and maintain the right kind of mixer on hot bath taps and properly supervise their staff.

 

In May 2014 the Nada Residential and Nursing Home in Manchester has been fined following an incident in which a resident suffered serious injuries when he fell from a window.

In December 2012 a 63-year old man, a resident of the care home, suffering from dementia, was found below his bedroom window suffering from multiple fractures. He told staff that he wanted to get some fresh air.

The risk of residents falling from open windows was well known in the care home sector. The windows should have been fitted with restrictors to prevent them opening more than ten centimetres.

The care home had failed to properly assess the risk of residents falling from windows and had not taken suitable action to prevent this happening.

Nada Residential and Nursing Home was fined £8000 plus £597 costs for a breach of section 3, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees, and under regulation 3, Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 for failing to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.

 

 

 


Lord Sewel to face police investigation

Lord Sewel has resigned from his positions as the Lords’ Deputy speaker and chairman of the Lords privileges and conduct committee amid claims that he took cocaine with prostitutes. The former Labour minister for agriculture, environment and fisheries will now face a police investigation amongst calls for him to resign from the Lords. The news comes at a time that David Cameron was hoping to introduce new peers, despite the fact that the House of Lords is already oversubscribed.
In reacting to the news, the Lord Speaker Baroness D’Souza said;

“Today’s revelations about the behaviour of Lord Sewel are both shocking and unacceptable… The House of Lords will continue to uphold standards in public life and will not tolerate departure from these standards”

In today’s (27th July) newspapers, fresh claims have arisen with Lord Sewel wearing an orange bra and criticising various politicians. He called Mr Cameron, “the most facile, superficial prime minister there’s ever been”, Boris Johnson “a joke” and a “public school upper class twit”, and Scottish MP Alex Salmond as a “silly, pompous prat”, in recordings made or obtained by The Sun.

Lord Sewel has yet to respond to the claims.


Bristol race discrimination case: Wiltshire police

 

RACE DISCRIMINATION

Promotion

Harassment

Case  Lungu v Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police (2015) Eq Opp Rev 259:23, Bristol ET

Facts L, a black man of Zimbabwean ethnicity, is a police constable employed by CCWP. The Wiltshire force has 16 black officers out of a total of 1072. He was denied the opportunity for promotion because his line manager refused to recommend him, having reduced his appraisal scores with no explanation. His line manager allegedly complained to L about his body odour, saying that this was caused by the greasy stuff which he put on his skin. L complained of direct race discrimination and racial harassment.

Decision      1. The line manager’s comments about body odour were clearly linked to the fact that he was black. This was unwanted conduct which had the effect of violating his dignity.

  1. The reduction of scores on L’s appraisal was direct race discrimination. There was no real explanation of why the scores had been changed. It was clearly appropriate to infer that it had been done because of L’s race.

Asbestos exposure: prison sentence

Asbestos exposure: prison sentence

Health and Safety Executive v Brian Roberts (2015) Llandudno magistrates’ court, June 12

Brian Roberts, a builder, has been sentenced to imprisonment for exposing workers to asbestos.

Significant points of the case

  • Roberts was engaged to remove asbestos from a commercial unit on an industrial estate in Colwyn Bay.
  • He removed asbestos insulating board (AIB) from the unit despite not holding a licence to work with this material.
  • The HSE was alerted to the unlicensed work by a licensed contractor.
  • Roberts and three men working with him were exposed to potentially deadly asbestos fibres.

Roberts received a 26 weeks custodial sentence for a breach of regulation 8(1), Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, for undertaking work with asbestos without a licence.

An HSE inspector is reported to have made the following comments after the case:

  • Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Its safe removal requires a high level of skill and technical knowledge.
  • The outcome of the exposure in this case could not easily be assessed. Those involved now have to live with the fear of becoming ill with life-threatening lung disease.

 


Girl injured on fair ride: health and safety prosecution

Fair ride injury: £1500 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Patrick McGeough (2015) Northampton Crown Court, May 19

Patrick McGeough, the owner/operator of a Twister fair ride, has been fined following an incident in which a nine-year old girl was thrown from the ride.

Significant points of the case

  • In November 2012 the girl was thrown from the ride when a safety bar flew open. She struck a metal safety barrier and suffered severe internal bruising.
  • The ride was operating 50 per cent faster than its maximum design speed. This increased the ejection force on the riders.
  • Secondary locks for the safety bars were not in use.
  • A prohibition notice and an improvement notice were served on McGeough requiring him not to use the ride until means were fitted to ensure that it could not be operated beyond its safe maximum speed.

McGeough was fined £1500 plus £1500 costs under section 3, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees.


Chilcot Inquiry costs

Latest press reports indicate that the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War, which has been running for six years, has now cost £10 million. Civilian casualties since the invasion of 2003 have been estimated as 650,000. The Report of the Inquiry is now unlikely to be published for another year at least. The Inquiry last took evidence from a witness almost three years ago. It has been claimed that well-known names involved in the Inquiry were seeking to water down the strength of criticism of them in the Report. There is significant pressure from Parliament, either for Sir John Chilcot, the head of the Inquiry, to be dismissed, or for an interim report to be published as a matter of urgency.


Europe in Crisis

Across Greece this week (w/c 29th June 2015), banks will be closed and cash withdrawals limited to €60 (£42) ahead of the deadline for a €1.54 billion payment to be paid to the International Monetary Fund. The European Central Bank has already decided not to extend emergency funding, and the former bailout expires on the 30th June, the same day that the payment is due. The Greek Prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has also called for a referendum on the terms of the new bailout deal. The referendum will ask the Greek people to decide on whether the terms offered by the creditors before negotiations broke down were accepted or not.
In reaction, European Stock markets have fallen sharply, with the Euro losing 2% of its value against the US dollar. The Greek people have been queuing at banks and ATMs around the country to withdraw what money they can. Most notably, pensioners who receive their pension at the end of the month and who tend to shun ATMs have been unable to access their accounts. Drivers were also concerned about the impact on the availability of fuel and headed to gas stations across the country, with the largest refiner prompted to allay fears by releasing a statement that it had enough fuel to supply. Supermarkets are also reporting a huge increase in panic buying, with newspaper reports commenting that Greeks have entered a “siege mentality”.
Along with the crisis in Greece, migration is also causing problems for the EU. Many people have crossed the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East, arriving in Italy, Greece and the Western Balkans. Italy wants the other member states of Europe to take their share of refugees in a compulsory scheme. Member states such as Bulgaria however have refused, with countries like Greece are facing their own financial difficulties making accepting refugees politically sensitive.
With Europe in crisis, those in support of Britain’s own exit may be buoyed. While the future is uncertain, if the institution can come through these latest problems, it may well be battle hardy enough to be more sustainable in the long term.


Hospital death: food served to nil by mouth patient: health and safety prosecution

Hospital death: £40,000 fine

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service v Highland Health Board (2015) Inverness Sheriff Court, July 7

Highland Health Board has been fined following the death of a hospital patient who was served food despite being categorised as nil by mouth.

Significant points of the case

  • In December 2013 James South was admitted to Raigmore Hospital suffering from a number of complaints. He was treated with naso-gastric feeding. A label stating that he was to be Nil by Mouth was placed at the head of his bed.
  • South died following the lunchtime meal which was served to him. He was found to have mashed potato on his face and inside the mask which he had been wearing.
  • The Health Board had failed in its duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of those not in its employment and had not taken all reasonable steps to ensure that riks to patients with special dietary requirements were managed.

Highland Health Board was fined £40,000 for a breach of section 3, HSW Act.

An HSE inspector is reported to have commented after the case that the failings demonstrated the need for effective communication and understanding in the health care environment and the need to appropriately manage the risks to patients with special requirements.


The Bear Garden

The Bear Garden

The index to the Civil Court Practice contains the following entry: “Bear Garden” lists.

The entry refers to the Queen’s Bench Guide 2000, paragraph 6.3: Listing before Masters.

The Masters’ lists consist of:

The ordinary list – short applications in Rooms E102 and E110 (“the Bear Garden lists”). Masters will sit each day at 10.30 a.m. in the Bear Garden to hear applications in the Bear Garden lists.

Masters deal with interim and some pre-action applications and manage the claims so that they proceed without delay. Short hearings only take place in the Bear Garden.

What is this mysterious place?

The apparent origin of this phrase in the legal context can be found in evidence given to the Common Law Procedure Commission in 1831 by Thomas Lott, an attorney:

The rule office on the first day of term is a perfect bear garden and where there has been a great pressure of business, and those dirty little holes, the judges’ chambers, much crowded, I have seen oaths administered through the window to deponents in the courtyard, and persons excepting to bail compelled to make their exit through a back window rather than encounter the crowd.

Dickens refers to Judges’ Chambers, then situate in the Rolls Gardens, and vulgarly known as the “Bear Garden”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a bear garden as a place set apart for the baiting of bears, a scene of strife and tumult.

The position appears to be that unrepresented claimants appearing before Masters in the Queen’s Bench Division are consigned to a Bear Garden. The origin of this may be the chaotic nature of the place. In any event, how can it be acceptable to name a suite of rooms on the Royal Courts of Justice after a cruel and illegal practice? Perhaps it might be renamed “The Cockpit”?

The Bear Garden is clearly signposted in the Royal Courts of Justice. One might, unrealistically, expect some element of suppressed guilt, or at the least embarrassment, at this label. But no, there is a proud boast of this continued use of early Victorian metaphor based on a viciously cruel baiting of animals.