The biggest health and safety fines in Britain this year (according to the HSE’s public register of convictions) all resulted from tragic but preventable fatalities. The cases below show the terrible human consequence of basic health and safety mistakes as well as the considerable financial implications for the organisations involved.
Airbus Operations Ltd - £200,000
Breaches of Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 (HSWA) section 2; Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) regulation 8 and 9; Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Regulation 3
Donny Williams, 62, was killed in 2011 whilst fitting a spreader to a tractor for a trial to apply granular de-icer on a runway. Whilst working with a colleague he became trapped between the tractor’s rear tyre and the spreader and died of a fractured skull. The investigation identified a lack of a safe system of work, no risk assessment, and no information, instruction and training for Mr Williams and his co-workers on working on the tractor and spreader.
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust - £200,000
Breach of HSWA section 3
Gillian Astbury, 66, a diabetic patient, died at the hospital in 2007 after nurses failed to give her insulin over up to eight shift changes and 11 drugs rounds. The hospital trust failed to implement basic handover procedures and ensure essential record-keeping.
This was a landmark case for the HSE which tended to prosecute healthcare bodies for technical health and safety offences (e.g. healthcare equipment, fire safety, asbestos, falls from height). This is the first prosecution for failures relating to a hospital’s systems and management processes.
Aramex (UK) Limited - £250,000
Breach of HSWA section 3
Michael Sweet, 48, died after falling through a warehouse roof. Mr Sweet’s employer, roofing contractor Gary Edwards, had been hired to fix a leak in Aramex’s roof but had failed to put in place adequate safety measures or carry out a risk assessment. Aramex ignored its own health and safety guidelines by failing to supervise the work or assess how it would be carried out, despite knowing the roof was fragile.
Sterecycle (Rotherham) Ltd - £500,000
Fined under Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
Michael Whinfrey, 42, suffered fatal head injuries after the door of an autoclave machine he was operating blew out under pressure in 2011. Another man suffered serious life-changing injuries in the explosion which blew a hole in the factory wall. The explosion resulted from the failure of a screw connection that secured the door to the machine. The company was aware of longstanding issues with the autoclave doors but made no effort to repair the problem properly, putting employees lives at risk.
Costain Limited - £525,000
Breaches of HSWA sections 2 and 3 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 section 3
Mark Williams, 41, died of crush injuries after a telehandler overturned during a construction project in Newbury in 2011. The telehandler was being used to lift a pallet of tiles to a fourth story roof however the lack of space available meant the machine overbalanced whilst being manoeuvred. Mr Williams, who had warned the day before that ‘someone was going to get killed’, tried to escape the telehandler as it began to topple, but was unable to move away in time. Costain Limited, the principal contractor for the development, was prosecuted for failing to provide a safe system of work.