Corporate Manslaughter – company awaiting sentencing

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 has been used in a recent case involving a Stonemasonry firm. Cavendish Masonry, a Bath based stonemasonry firm, is awaiting sentencing following being found guilty of corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. A 23 year old worker (Mr David Evans) was crushed by a limestone block during a lifting operation in February 2010. Mr Evans was working as a stonemason’s mate on a project to build a large “rustic wall” as part of a redevelopment project in Wallingford. He sustained fatal injuries to his chest and abdomen when a two tonne block of limestone fell off its lintel after the site manager told a crane driver to slacken the ropes holding it in place. Mr Evans was rushed to the John Radcliffe Hospital by air ambulance but he died later the same day.

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Work at height – caught during the act

Here is an example of being caught in the act of doing something foolish and being penalised for it. A foolhardy roofer appeared in court after footing a double extension ladder on a transit van in order to access a third floor façade. In this case, Mr George Nicholls (aged 25), blatantly risked harming himself and others as he used the ladder to paint a shop frontage in Southampton in March 2013. His reckless exploits were captured on camera by a council environmental health officer following a tip-off from a concerned member of the public.

The HSE investigated and then prosecuted Mr Nicholls for safety failings, as well as taking action against the company that paid him to undertake the work.  Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard Mr Nicholls (T/A Laser Roofing London and South East Roofing Limited)  had been sub-contracted by the Norfolk-based Company Maintenance 24-7 Ltd for the paint job because the company did not possess the correct equipment or expertise. Ladders were specified as the chosen method of work, but after the finding the façade was higher than the ladder he had with him, Mr Nicholls improvised: he placed the ladder on the roof of his van and worked from it, fully-extended, some eight metres above the ground with a labourer providing the footing.

Unsurprisingly, the Magistrates’ Court was told this system was fraught with risk. Not only could Mr Nicholls or his labourer have fallen, but there was no form of segregation to prevent vehicles or pedestrians from passing under or near the work area. So members of the public could have been struck by falling equipment or materials. Further to this, the HSE established that the van was parked over a bus stop on a busy road with double yellow lines – indicating a further lack of regard or awareness.

The Court heard that a pavement licence should have been obtained to create a properly segregated safe-working area, and that a safe work method should have been adopted, such as the use of scaffolding or of a mobile elevated work platform (MEWP) to provide a safer access option for the façade.

For their part, Maintenance 24-7 Ltd admitted a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and a further breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and were fined £10,000 with £784 in costs.

Mr George Nicholls was fined a total of £4,000 and ordered to pay £666 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and (3(1) of the same Act.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Frank Flannery commented:

The photographic evidence speaks for itself in terms of the risks created. Anyone can see the system of work is plain wrong, so why a supposedly competent roofer chose to work in this way is anyone’s guess.

George Nicholls blatantly and recklessly risked harming himself and others, and he did so on behalf of Maintenance 24-7 Ltd, who had clear duties of their own to ensure the work at height was properly planned, managed and executed in a safe manner.

The standards of both parties fell far below those required, and I would like to thank the concerned member of the public who initially brought the matter to the council’s attention.

Fall from Height – another serious injury leading to prosecution

The HSE investigates another work fall from height leading to serious injury. Worker will never walk again. A Southwark based construction company has been prosecuted by the HSE and ordered to over £126,000 in fines and court costs after a worker was left paralysed following a fall. The 38 year old worker fell eight metres from an unguarded window space into a basement. He is no longer able to walk or work and has had to overcome major physical and emotional trauma while adjusting to life in a wheelchair.

Southwark Crown Court heard the worker injured by the fall from height was part of a team that was transforming two former Victorian hostels into four single town houses. This conversion project involved demolition and refurbishment as well as some new-build activity. The HSE established that during the course of the work windows were removed from the buildings in an ad-hoc and uncontrolled manner. They were removed at various times and for a variety of reasons, but no suitable controls measures were put in place to prevent a fall from height through the spaces that this created (as could have been achieved by fitting boarding or guard rails). The result of this work method was the creation open voids with no fall protection for a period of about four to six weeks.

Some of the removed windows were on a raised first floor area, creating openings at just above floor level. The worker fell through one of the missing windows in this area while attempting to connect a temporary electricity supply. He lost his balance and fell eight metres onto the concrete floor of a basement below. The court was told the non-guarding of the windows posed a clear danger and that it put multiple Habitat Construction employees and sub-contractors at unnecessary risk of a fall from height because any one of them could have fallen in a similar manner.

Habitat Construction LLP was fined £110,000 and was ordered to pay £16,620 in costs for this fall from height injury after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.  After the hearing, HSE inspector Toby Webb commented:

This was an entirely preventable fall that left an employee with permanent, life-changing injuries.

We found a catalogue of working-at-height risks throughout the site, including the use of simple netting as edge protection to a deep excavation and the removal of windows without installing appropriate protection.

The unguarded windows posed a clear and extremely serious risk, not only for this unfortunate worker but for others at the site who worked near what were effectively open voids.

Sub-contractors were also placed in danger because there was nothing to stop equipment or debris from falling from the window spaces.

The onus was on Habitat Construction to ensure appropriate safety measures were in place, but the company clearly failed its legal responsibilities in this regard.

Workplace Transport Prosecution

There are about 50 people killed each year in accidents involving workplace transport. These types of accidents also cause more than 1500 major injuries (accidents which, for example, result in broken bones or amputations) and about 3500 injuries that cause people to be off work for more than three days. This article pulls together links to information relating to workplace transport prosecution. All f this means that Workplace Transport is high on the HSE agenda when they visit businesses.

Workplace transport relates to any vehicle or piece of mobile equipment that is used by employers, employees, self-employed people or visitors in any work setting (apart from travelling on public roads). As a result, it covers a very wide range of vehicles, from cars, vans, lorries and lift trucks, to less common vehicles and plant such as straddle carriers, rubber-tyred gantries and self-propelled machinery. Continue reading

Safe Isolation of Plant and Equipment – Part 1

Safe Isolation of Plant and Equipment

The safe isolation of plant and equipment is essential to allow various processes to take place, such as cleaning, maintenance, repair, and modification. Although no health and safety legislation covers this area specifically, there are several general legal drivers, such as the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974 (Section 2: duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees, Section 3: duty to ensure the health and safety of non-employees), the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (Regulation 3: duty to carry out risk assessments) as well as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) and the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2005 (DSEAR), etc.

Failures during the isolation and reinstatement of plant and equipment are a significant cause of loss of containment incidents and can lead to major accidents. In some cases, the isolation may take place a long way from where the work is being carried out. Suitable procedures need to be implemented, managed, monitored, reviewed and revised. The effectiveness of an isolation system depends on the adequacy of other arrangements, including work control systems (especially permit-to-work), operating procedures, training and competence, management of change and contingency plans.

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Fall from height fatality – Religious Charity Volunteer

A fall from height fatality can happen in many settings. This case is not unusual: warnings were ignored and money was saved.

A religious charity from Liverpool has been fined £65,000 for breaching health and safety laws following the death of a volunteer who fell through a roof void whilst undertaking insulation work. The fall from height fatality happened while the 39-year-old member of the church congregation (LB) was assisting builder (KT) in laying insulation in the auditorium and fell approximately 25 feet through a suspended ceiling at the Liverpool Lighthouse Church in 12 February 2010.  Liverpool Crown Court heard that an investigation by Liverpool City Council found that the ceiling was fragile and there was a clear, high risk of falling in this space.

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Lead poisoning prosecution

Lead poisoning is still an issue in some workplaces. Recently, a court heard that nine workers at a ceramic tile factory in North Wales had levels of lead in their blood above national safety limits putting them at risk of serious health problems.

The employees of a specialist firm (CBD of Denbigh) were tested after an issue came to light in February 2012 following a routine visit by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The company, which uses colour glazes containing lead in its tiling work, was today in April 2014 prosecuted by HSE at Llandudno Magistrates’ court after an investigation disclosed serious safety failings. The court heard that HSE’s routine inspection raised serious concerns about how CBD handled the control of lead during its manufacturing process.

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Asbestos prosecution for failure to communicate

In the words of Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”. This led to an asbestos prosecution.

A Battersea building firm has been fined for failing to highlight the known presence of asbestos insulating board (AIB) in a warehouse – leading to exposure to a foreman and others to potential harm when the AIB was ripped out during refurbishment work.  RC Ltd was in possession of a detailed asbestos survey that clearly identified the location of the asbestos wall panels inside the warehouse. This survey, however, was not shared with the team. So when a foreman mistook the AIB for asbestos cement – a lower risk material – it was removed without adequate control measures and protective equipment.

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Isocyanates are used in certain two-pack paint systems and polyurethane systems as a hardener. Isocyanates are hazardous to health and cause occupational asthma and respiratory sensitisation. They are well known respiratory sensitisers and exposure to them can ruin lives.

Isocyanate can cause asthma by inhalation

  • Control exposure to stop occupational asthma developing.
  • Even short-term exposures can cause harm.
  • If an individual does develop occupational asthma, avoid further exposure.
  • Isocyanate can cause dermatitis by skin contact.
  • There is no evidence for cancer from isocyanate in paints.

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Fire Safety – common problems

In my business, we visit lots of premises to carry out fire risk assessments and to help people with their fire safety.

One of the disappointing things that turns up again and again is blocked and/or obstructed fire escape routes. We hear all to often that “its not usually like this” or “what can you do?”

Obstructed fire escape route

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