Culture of negligence results in Prison Sentences

In a recently reported case, a culture of negligence resulted in prison sentences being given to two Company Directors. A litany of safety failings led to a recycling company and both of its directors being prosecuted and fined. How did this particular company and its management get it so wrong?

A series of visits by the HSE to the recycling plant operated by Monoworld Recycling Ltd revealed a wide range of safety failings. Workers were being put at serious risk in various aspects of their work, including:

  • work at height
  • using unsafe work equipment and unsafe electrical equipment
  • poorly maintained workplace vehicles
  • emergency stop buttons on machinery were marked as broken but were not repaired
  • broken lights and windscreen wipers on forklift trucks were not fixed, putting pedestrians and drivers at risk.

The HSE served a total of 15 enforcement notices on the company, and three on each of the two company directors. Unfortunately, they did not heed the HSE’s advice on remedying their health and safety failings, and work carried on under the same conditions. A prohibition notice preventing work at height until effective control measures were in place was also issued, but this was also ignored. Employees told the HSE that they were instructed to carry on working at height, and felt pressurised to do so even after raising concerns about their safety.

The Company was fined £83,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,000. DThe two directors were also prosecuted. One of them was given a 26-week prison sentence suspended for twelve months, fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,000. The other was ordered to complete 150 hours of community service, fined £7,500 and ordered to pay costs of £7,000.

Following the case, the HSE inspector described this company as having a “culture of negligence”.

The Company’s failings, in this case, have put their workers at risk from serious personal injury. It was clear the overall approach to business risk was haphazard at best, with a culture of negligence, for which the two directors were ultimately responsible.

The HSE took proactive action, throughout its dealings with Monoworld, and tried to work with the company when concerns were first raised.

Enforcement notices gave the company and its directors the chance to put things right, but they did not take the advice offered to them. Luckily, their breaches did not result in any injuries, but the fact that they knew they were putting their workers at risk made their failure to act all the more serious, resulting in a custodial sentence.