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Archive for November, 2015

Worker suffers severe cement burns: successful health and safety prosecution

Cement burns: £14,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v DLP Services (Northern) Ltd (2015) Sefton magistrates’ court, November 25

DLP Services (Northern) Ltd, a construction company, has been fined following a worker suffering severe cement burns.

Significant points of the case

  • In November 2014 an employee of the company knelt in wet concrete to manually finish concrete flooring being laid in a bungalow. He suffered severe cement burns to his knees and was hospitalised for 12 days.
  • The company had failed to adequately assess the risks and to implement suitable and sufficient control measures to protect workers from contact of wet concrete with the skin. It had not provided PPE (personal protective equipment) and there were no welfare facilities on site.
  • The company had previously been served with improvement notices for lack of welfare facilities.

The company was fined £14,000 plus £1590 costs for breaches of regulation 22 (1), Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and regulation 7(1), Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).

An HSE inspector commented after the case that the injuries suffered by the worker had been entirely foreseeable and avoidable if the company had implemented suitable controls, for example the use of long-handled tools or the provision of suitable chemical resistant PPE. It was also wholly unreasonable to expect workers to travel four miles to find welfare facilities.


Litigants in person

 

Litigants in person

Most intelligent, reasonably articulate, literate and averagely educated people can make a start on legal proceedings themselves. They can draft letters of claim, fill out forms and prepare witness statements. But as court or tribunal proceedings roll along, they find themselves increasingly trapped in a fog of procedural technicalities. These technical rules are less complex than they used to be, but they remain hugely difficult to cope with, especially when the litigant in person is up against ruthless and experienced lawyers. As a judge is reported to have commented to an unrepresented claimant in an industrial injury case, you have plunged into the icy waters of English legal procedure.


Hartlepool Dock death fall: £400,000 fine

Fall death: £400,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v PD Teesport Ltd (2015) Teesside Crown Court, November 23

PD Teesport Ltd has been fined following the death of an agency worker in a fall.

Significant points of the case

  • Robert Harrison, an agency worker, was working at Hartlepool Dock in September 2012. He was loading 12 metre steel pipes into the hold of a vessel at PD Teesport Ltd.
  • He and his colleagues were standing on top of a stack of pipes which increased in height as more pipes were loaded into the hold, using a dockside crane to lift and lower them into position.
  • Mr Harrison fell from the exposed edge of the stack of the pipes. He fell eight metres to the steel deck of the hold and suffered fatal injuries.
  • There were exposed edges at either end of the pipes, between the ends of the pipes and the bulkhead of the vessel. The company had not provided appropriate measures to prevent or minimise the risks from falls.

The company was fined £400,000 plus £107,000 costs for a breach of section 3, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees.

An HSE inspector is reported to have commented after the case that the company should have properly assessed the risk and ensured that appropriate measures were in place to reduce the risks of falling. The risk of a fall from an eight-meter stack of pipes was obvious. The precautions could have included the use of soft landing systems, for example an air bag or cushion which would have ensured that no significant injury could result from a fall.


Bad English: Orwell’s principles and Parliamentary draftspersons

 

 

Orwell’s principles of good English could profitably be adopted by Parliamentary draftspersons, who do not need to be legally qualified, for example:

  • Clear thinking
  • Fearlessness
  • Avoid dead metaphors
  • Avoid foreign words
  • What am I trying to say?
  • What words will express it?
  • What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  • Is this a fresh image?
  • Could I put it more shortly?
  • Have I said anything avoidably ugly?
  • Avoid familiar metaphors
  • Avoid words which the averagely intelligent person cannot understand
  • Use short words
  • Use active not passive tense
  • Exclude Latin
  • Thoughts only have meaning if they are expressed in such a way that they can be understood
  • Theory constructed in an obscure way is meaningless to readers and makes sense, if at all, only to the writer

Bad writers are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin and Greek words are grander than Saxon ones.


The mystery of the gavel – yours for £85

The Mystery of the Gavel

A gavel is a small wooden mallet with a matching block. It can be bought from a specialist legal accessories dealer (made from Mexican rosewood). The gavel appears as a clichéd image on many law-related websites and quasi-legal advertisements. Like the scales of justice and the wig, the gavel image achieves meaninglessness and significance at the same time. It has no meaning because gavels are not used in English courts. Its contextual irrelevance is not the point. Its imagery, like the wig and the scales of justice, is an essential part of the mystique of English law.


Eructation

Eructation

In Ng v Director of Public Prosecutions (2007), Ng argued that an intoximeter reading had been affected by eructation, in common parlance belching. The High Court ruled that the presence of a driver’s elevated mouth alcohol caused by eructation went directly to the commission of the offence and was capable of amounting to a special reason in relation to disqualification from driving.


Worker killed by HGV at commercial vehicle site:employing company fined £166,000

Fatal crush injuries: £166,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Imperial Commercials Ltd (2015) Warwick Crown Court, November 19

Imperial Commercials Ltd, a commercial vehicle company, has been fined following the death of an employee.

Significant points of the case

  • Craig Stewart Dunn, an employee of the company, was working at the company’s site in Wellesbourne. He was struck by a heavy goods vehicle and suffered fatal crush injuries.
  • The HGV driver could not see the deceased because the front grill of the vehicle was raised. This was an occasional practice at the site.
  • The company had failed to provide a safe workplace. It had not properly considered the risks from the movement of HGVs at the site and had not provided effective segregation of pedestrains from moving vehicles.

The company was fined £166,000 plus £46,500 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 companies which work with vehicles of all sizes need to ensure that all pedestrians are able to circulate and work safely at their premises at all times.


Manchester care home dangerous excavation: public report to HSE: work stopped

Unsafe care home excavations: £2000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Brierstone Ltd (2015) Trafford magistrates’ court, November 13

Brierstone Ltd, a building contractor, has been fined following unsafe excavations at a care home site placed workers and members of the public at risk.

Significant points of the case

  • In September 2014 an HSE inspector visited a care home site in Manchester following a concern raised by a member of the public.
  • The investigation found two large unsupported excavations which were more than four metres deep. The inspector served a prohibition notice preventing work being carried out within five metres of the excavations.
  • The company had failed to take steps to ensure that the excavations were adequately supported or battered back to prevent collapse and possible injury.

The company was fined £2000 plus £1100 costs for a breach of regulation 3, Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that before starting groundworks, contractors must ensure that the risks associated with the creation of excavations have been properly assessed, that a temporary works engineer has been appointed to design a suitable means of supporting any excavations, and that the controls identified are implemented in order to prevent collapse.

Putting workers’ lives at risk would not be tolerated and the HSE would take action even where there was no injury.


Albert Camus on Charity: Pro bono heroes?

Camus, The Fall

This is the story of a successful barrister who appears to be the epitome of good citizenship and decent behaviour. Circumstances explode his sleek self-esteem. He sees through the deep-seated hypocrisy of his existence to the condescension which motivates his every action.

The feeling of the law, the satisfaction of being right, the joy of self-esteem… I loved to help blind people cross streets. From as far away as I could see a cane hesitating on the edge of a pavement, I would rush forward, sometimes only a second ahead of another charitable hand outstretched, snatch the blind person from any solicitude but mine, and lead him gently but firmly over the pedestrian crossing amidst the hazards of the traffic towards the quiet haven of the other pavement, where we would separate with a mutual emotion… I always enjoyed telling people the way in the street, giving a light, lending a hand with heavy barrows, pushing a stranded car, buying a paper from the Salvation Army girl.

Being stopped in the corridor of the law courts by the wife of a defendant you represented for the sake of justice or pity alone – without charging a fee – hearing that woman whisper that nothing could ever repay what you had done for them, replying that it was quite natural, that anyone would have done as much, even offering some financial help to tide over the bad days ahead, then – in order to cut the effusions short and preserve their proper resonance – kissing the hand of a poor woman and breaking away…

 

In 1957, Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, with a prize of $42,000. He deposited the cheque in a bank in Stockholm and forgot about it until some months later, when he was asked by the bank what he wanted them to do with the funds.

Camus’ attitude to prizes and honours forms an interesting contrast with the ethos of lawyers’ charitable work. For example, in November 2009 it was reported that more than 50 “pro bono heroes” attended a Parliamentary reception hosted by the Attorney-General. She is reported to have commented that it was not in the nature of lawyers who acted pro bono to seek recognition or praise for their efforts. The reception was a way of celebrating the work of pro bono heroes. The glaring contradictions of this statement were not recognised.


Wrexham crushing death:health and safety prosecution:£180,000 fine

Death from crushing injuries: £180,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Morgan Technical Ceramics Ltd (2015) Chester Crown Court, November 13

Morgan Technical Ceramics Ltd has been fined following the death of a worker in a crushing incident.

Significant points of the case

  • Christopher Williams, a maintenance supervisor employed by the company at its Wrexham premises, was moving a power press which was stored in a shipping container.
  • As he was moving the press, which weighed half a tonne, on a pallet truck, it toppled over and struck him, causing fatal injuries.
  • The lifting operation had been unsafe. The deceased had not been adequately trained in undertaking the lifting of non-standard loads.

The company was fined £180,000 plus £23,000 costs for a breach of section 2, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees.

An HSE inspector is reported to have commented after the case that thirty per cent of fatal accidents in manufacturing in Britain involve the fall of a heavy item. It was important that everyone involved in maintenance understood the risks, and that lifts were properly planned by a competent person.