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Archive for May, 2018

Recent health and safety prosecutions

Waste management company fined after death of worker

Health and Safety Executive v Viridor Waste Management Ltd (2018) Plymouth Crown Court, April 20

Statutory reference: regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR).

Viridor Waste Management Ltd has been fined after a worker was killed by a runaway lorry.

The facts

  • In June 2015 Lee Jane, an employee of Viridor, was working at a hospital in Plymouth. He was using a lorry and trailer to remove skips of ash from the hospital incinerator. He parked his lorry and trailer on a downward sloping road outside the incinerator.
  • As he was coupling the lorry to the trailer he lost control of the vehicle combination. He was drawn under the trailer and suffered fatal injuries.
  • The HSE investigation found that the handbrake of the lorry had not been applied.
  • There was no suitable and sufficient risk assessment to address the waste collection operation on site. The work had not been properly planned.

The decision

The company was fined £237,500 plus £128,000 costs under regulation 3 of MHSWR.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that tasks like this should be carried out on firm and level ground. There were level areas within the hospital grounds that the employer should have identified and designated for drivers to load the skips and couple the trailer.

 

Tractor death: farming partnership fined

Health and Safety Executive v GW Topham & Son (2018) Cambridge Crown Court, April 17

Statutory reference: s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA) and regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).

GW Topham & Son, a farming partnership, has been fined after an employee was killed in a tractor incident.

The facts

  • In August 2014 Harry Christian-Allan, an employee of the partnership, was driving a tractor and tandem-axle trailer to transport grain to a farm.
  • He failed to negotiate a roundabout and struck a bridge. He suffered fatal injuries.
  • The trailer was fitted with drum type brakes which had not been correctly adjusted and were ineffective.

The decision

The partnership was fined £400,000 plus £67,000 costs under s.2 of HSWA and regulation 5 of PUWER.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that many trailers are only used at harvest time and therefore the failure to maintain was likely to be widespread. Farmers are reminded to ensure that they adequately maintain all work equipment including any which is not in mainstream use.

 

Serious leg injuries: company fined £22,000

Health and Safety Executive v K Two Sales Ltd (2018) High Wycombe magistrates’ court, March 21

Statutory reference: s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA).

K Two Sales Ltd, a company manufacturing agricultural equipment, has been fined after a worker suffered two fractured legs.

The facts

  • In January 2017 an employee of the company accessed the rear of a guillotine to measure some off-cuts. There was a stack of 20 metal sheets of 4mm thickness stacked on top of each other. He tried to remove one and the whole stack fell on him. He suffered two fractured legs.
  • The sheets were stored without adequate means to prevent them from falling.

The decision

The company was fined £22,000 plus £1600 costs under s.2 of HSWA.

 

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome: community housing association fined

Health and Safety Executive v Tai Calon Community Housing (2018) Newport magistrates’ court, March 29

Statutory reference: s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA).

Tai Calon Community Housing has been fined for failing to effectively manage the exposure of employees to Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

The facts

  • Between July 2010 and May 2015 employees of the association were routinely exposed to vibration in their daily work. In May 2015 the association introduced health surveillance and a number of workers were diagnosed with HAVS. This condition includes pain, loss of strength in the hands, distress and sleep disturbance.
  • An HSE investigation found that the association failed to adequately assess the risk to employees from the sue of vibratory tools, failed to implement adequate measures to reduce employees’ exposure to vibration, failed to place workers under suitable health surveillance and failed to provide employees with suitable information, instruction and training.

The decision

The association was fined £30,000 plus £2700 costs under s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA).

An HSE inspector is reported to have commented after the case that where vibratory tools are used, employers should monitor the health of employers using them and ensure that appropriate systems are in place to manage and control the risk from vibration.

 

Farm partners fined following power line death

Health and Safety Executive v Nicholas Watts and Roger Watts (2018) Basildon magistrates’ court, May 11

Statutory reference: regulation 3 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR).

The facts

  • In August 2016 Christopher Wilson, a haulage contractor, was killed at a farm in Suffolk when his tipping trailer was raised and made contact with overhead power lines. He was electrocuted and suffered fatal injuries.
  • The farm was managed by Nicholas Watts and Roger Watts, partners of FS Watts & Sons.
  • The HSE investigation found that the partnership had failed to take suitable precautions for work near the overhead power lines, despite recommendations previously given to them by NFU Mutual Risk Management Services.

The decision

Nicholas Watts and Roger Watts were each fined £9500 plus £4700 costs under regulation 3 of EAWR.

 

£1.6 million fine for legionnaires’ disease and explosion

Health and Safety Executive v Faltec Europe Ltd (2018) Newcastle Crown Court, May 17

Statutory reference: ss. 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA).

Faltec Europe Ltd, a car parts manufacturer, has been fined a total of £1.6 million following a legionnaires’ disease outbreak and an explosion at the same plant.

The facts

  • Between October 2014 and June 2015, two employees of the company, two agency workers and a local resident became seriously ill with legionnaires’ disease. The illness was caused by the company’s failure to effectively manage its water cooling systems in its South Tyneside factory. This caused legionella bacteria to grow to potentially lethal levels.
  • In October 2016 an operator tried to recover a part which had come from production rollers. During normal production there is an explosive atmosphere within the machine. The part came into contact with an electrostatic grid which created a spark and caused an explosion. The worker suffered first degree burns to his face and arms.
  • Adequate measures had not been put in place to protect operators from explosion risks despite previous explosions having occurred.

The decision

The company was fined £800,000 under ss. 2 and 3 of HSWA for the legionella incident. It was fined the same amount under s.2 of HSWA for the explosion, plus £75,000 costs.

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

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. When water systems are not properly controlled and maintained there is a risk of exposing employees and the wider community to legionella bacteria.

Where dangerous substances create a fire and explosion risk, adequate control measures must be in place to prevent an explosion or mitigate the consequences.

 


REDUNDANCY:WRITTEN NOTICE:SUPREME COURT DECISION

REDUNDANCY

Written notice

Case  Haywood v Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust [2018] UKSC 22, Supreme Court

Facts The Trust identified H’s post as redundant. If her employment terminated by reason of redundancy on or after her 50th birthday on July 20, 2011, she could claim a non-actuarially reduced pension. H told the employer that she was taking two weeks annual leave from April 18. The Trust issued 12 weeks written notice of redundancy on April 20. It was delivered to her home on April 21 by recorded delivery. A relative collected the letter from the sorting office on April 26. On April 27 H read the letter. She claimed that the notice period ran from April 27 and expired on July 20. The Trust argued that there was a common law rule that notice was given when the letter was delivered to an address.

Decision      When an employee was dismissed on written notice posted to her home address, and there was no express provision in the contract of employment as to when the notice period would run, the court would imply a term that written notice only took effect when it came to the employee’s attention and she had either read the notice or had a reasonable opportunity of so doing. The presumption of receipt at the address was rebuttable.