£35,000 fine for forklift health & safety breach

A serious health & safety breach at a Welwyn Garden City company has led to bosses being handed a £35,000 fine following an accident in which an employee broke both his legs.

In February 2008, the employee was hit by a fork lift truck, leaving both his legs broken and he also suffered tissue damage in his legs.  While investigating the case, it was discovered that the company had inadequate risk control measures in place.

The investigation, led by the local council’s Environmental Health team, also found that the firm allowed the truck to be driven with a load that obscured the driver’s view.

During a hearing at St Albans Magistrates’ Court, the company was fined £35,000 – the maximum fine available, and ordered to pay £15,750 costs to the borough council for the accident, which could have been prevented.

The court heard that the employee, a full-time cleaner, was walking through the warehouse to collect fresh supplies for his storage cupboard when he was mowed down by the fork lift truck.

Months of painful skin graft treatment were required after suffering extensive tissue damage on his legs, both of which were broken in the accident.  He has not been able to return to work since and is said to still be in a considerable amount of pain.

The inquiry uncovered a number of health & safety offences, including the lack of risk assessment, the company’s failure to separate moving vehicles from pedestrians and not providing its employees a safe environment to work in.

First Charge Brought Under Corporate Manslaughter Act

A company has become the first in the UK to be charged under the 2007 Corporate Manslaughter Act.  Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings is accused over the death of an employee, who was killed when a pit collapsed in September 2008.  The CPS Special Crime Division has stated that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction for this offence.

The Company Director is charged with gross negligence manslaughter and could be jailed for life if convicted, whereby the maximum sentence for the firm is an unlimited fine.  Both the Director and the company also face other health & safety charges.

The 2007 Corporate Manslaughter Act was brought in to make it easier to bring companies to justice over the death of employees. An organisation will be guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities were managed or organised (particularly by senior management) caused a death, and amounted to a gross breach of a duty of care to the person who died.

This prosecution is likely to be the first of many under the new legislation, with many work-related fatalities which occurred after April 2008 currently being investigated by the police.

The message to all organisations can not be clearer – you must ensure your business is properly managing health & safety at all levels and that all applicable legislation and guidance is adhered to.  Specifically, suitable and sufficient risk assessments must be carried out by a competent person, in order to assess all reasonably foreseeable hazards in the workplace.