UK: First Publicity Order In Corporate Manslaughter Case And General Case Update

Last Updated: 10 March 2014
Article by Anne Davies

These cases highlight one point over and over again; risk assessments. They are either not in place at all or are undertaken but not followed. Businesses must grasp that they are the backbone of good safety management and when used properly not only ensure work is done safely but also aides efficiency. It should be viewed as a business planning tool and not merely destined for the dusty files marked 'Safety'.

  1. Princes Sporting Club is the fifth company in the UK to be convicted of corporate manslaughter following the death of an 11 year old girl during a birthday party on Back Lake. The company was ordered to pay a total of £135,000, consisting of a £35,000 fine and £100,000 in costs, which amounted to the totality of its assets. The judge made it clear that he was fining the company for every penny that it had and commented that had the company been trading at the time he would have imposed a fine which would have put it out of business.

    The Court heard that the young girl was one of a number of children being pulled along on an inflatable banana boat, before falling into the lake and being hit by the speedboat towing the boat.

    The Court heard that the driver of the speedboat had no UK recognised qualifications and that there was an overall lax attitude to Health and Safety by the club.

    The Court also imposed a Publicity Order against the company, requiring the company to publicise the details of its conviction. This is the first time that this power had been used by the courts in corporate manslaughter cases.
  2. Assystem UK, a specialist engineering company providing services to firms such as Airbus and Rolls-Royce, has been fined £160,000 and been ordered to pay £52,500 in prosecution costs following an electrician was crushed and killed by an overhead crane in Preston.

    The HSE heard that a travelling crane had developed a fault which the electrician and colleagues were trying to fix when the crane activated and crushed the electrician against some steel hoops. The investigation concluded that the company had not identified the risk of workers being crushed and had failed to conduct a relevant risk assessment and this failure was found to be a significant cause of the death.

    The figure of £160,000 was reduced by around one third and rounded down slightly in acknowledgment of the company's early guilty plea and genuine remorse. It was also pointed out by the judge that the company had no previous enforcement notices or convictions.
  3. Carillion AM Government was fined £180,000 and ordered to pay £28,551 in legal costs following a motorcyclist was paralysed after he collided with road signs that had been mistakenly positioned by Carillion.

    The court heard that although signs should have been erected at 800, 400 and 200 meters before the road closure, the first sign was erected a mere 175 metres before the closure despite the fact that the speed limit in the area was 50mph.
  4. St George South London Ltd, a property developer, has been fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £222,692 in legal costs after a pedestrian suffered a permanent brain injury when she was struck by a falling advertising sign.

    The HSE investigation found that the sign had been erected over nine years prior to the incident and had decayed to such an extent that it was blown down by a gust of wind onto the pedestrian. The contractor responsible for the cosmetic maintenance of the sign had failed to remind SGSL that the sign had come to the end of its life or alerted them on their obligation to ensure it was properly inspected and maintained. SGSL themselves had not conducted a risk assessment or checked for structural soundness, even though the sign had actually been designed to last for only two years. The judge also found that death or very serious injury was likely to follow a possible collapse so was a foreseeable consequence that the company had failed to assess.
  5. St George South London Ltd was also involved in an incident whereby a temporary platform collapsed causing a worker to fall ten meters onto a concrete staircase with equipment raining down on him. The worker suffered multiple injuries and internal trauma and is no longer able to work in the construction industry.

    The HSE concluded that SGSL, as the principal contractor, had failed to properly plan and manage the construction work so as to avoid risks to safety and had failed to ensure that the subcontractors had developed and implemented safe systems of work.

    SGSL, who pleaded guilty to the offence, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £27,386 in costs.
  6. Sheffield Forgemasters was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £125,000 in costs after an employee died of carbon dioxide poisoning after the confined underground area he was working in filled with fire-extinguishing mist.

    The HSE investigation found that on the morning of the incident, the employee was undertaking a job in a cellar which was only accessible by lifting a manhole cover and dropping down a ladder, when the petrol-driven saw he was using activated a smoke sensor and prompted the release of carbon dioxide from the fire extinguishing system. Upon hearing the carbon dioxide alarms a number of colleagues rushed to help but were unable to rescue the employee due to inability to breathe and remain conscious when exposed to the gas.

    The investigation concluded that the employer had failed to provide any rescue equipment for the cellar, and identified a lack of risk assessment for the particular task and a failure to provide a safe system of work for its employees.
  7. A HSE investigation found that a farming company, whose employee had been killed after being crushed by a forklift truck, had carried out a risk assessment ten years before the incident which had highlighted the need for pedestrians and vehicles to be segregated but had failed to act upon these findings.

    The HSE concluded that the company had failed to take effective steps to ensure employees were safe and had failed to implement the findings of a risk assessment it had itself commissioned. Lincolnshire Field Products Ltd was fined £165,000 and ordered to pay £39,500 in costs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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