First corporate manslaughter prosecution under new law gets underway

Boss Peter Eaton and his company, Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd, appeared before Stroud magistrates on the 17th June to answer charges of unlawful killing of an employee by gross negligence – the first prosecution to be brought under 2007’s Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act.

The case was brought by the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to the death of geologist Alexander Wright in September last year. Mr Wright, 27, was gathering soil samples in a trench in Stroud when it collapsed in on him.

Peter Eaton, the sole director of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, and the company also face charges under sections 37 and 33 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, respectively.

In court yesterday, the 60-year-old spoke only to give his name, address and occupation. No pleas were entered and the case was committed to Bristol Crown Court for a preliminary hearing on 23 June. No pleas will be entered on this date either – the judge will set out the timetable for the prosecution and defence to serve their respective cases, and set a date for a plea and case management hearing.

Director fined for smoking at his desk

A company director has been fined for smoking in his office after an anonymous complaint to the HSE prompted council officers to pay his firm a visit.

In November 2008, enforcement officers warned Metric Scaffolding in Preston, Lancashire, about its responsibilities under the smoke-free legislation after the council received a tip-off that the firm’s staff regularly smoked in the office and in company vehicles.

When they returned to the premises in January this year, officers caught operations director Martin Lenehan smoking at his desk.
Lenehan refused to pay an on-the-spot penalty of £50 and the matter went to court. On 11 June, South Ribble magistrates found Lenehan guilty in his absence of smoking in a smoke-free place, and fined him £175 plus £75 costs.

“This latest conviction will hopefully serve as a reminder to the small minority of employers who are not observing the smoke-free legislation that they have a legal duty to comply and will be prosecuted if they do not,” said councillor Peter Mullineaux.

Shell fined largest amount yet for serious fire regulation breaches

Shell fined largest amount yet for serious fire regulation breaches
Shell International Ltd has been fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £45,000 in costs after pleading guilty to serious breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the RRO). This fine is the largest imposed under the RRO.

The London Fire Brigade prosecuted Shell following two small fires in the space of three weeks at the Shell Centre on York Road, London. These fires resulted in an inspection being carried out on 12 January 2007. The Inspecting Officers found extensive breaches, including blocked escape routes and fire exits, defective fire doors and excessive fire loading. The fire loading in the Shell Tower had been dramatically increased because of refurbishments taking place in the upper floors.

The deficiencies were so severe the London Fire Brigade served a prohibition notice on Shell, which restricted the use of the Shell Tower and basement levels. Under the prohibition notice, only people working to remedy the fire safety deficiencies were allowed to enter those parts of the building. All employees and members of the public were prevented access until the affected areas were considered to be safe enough to occupy. A further inspection was carried out on 15 January 2007 – all the fire safety failings were remedied and the prohibition notice was lifted.

It was also discovered that Shell’s own fire risk assessment had not been reviewed or updated since March 2003. The 2003 fire risk assessment had identified some of the same failings that were observed during the 2007 inspection. For over three years, the condition of the general fire precautions within the Tower deteriorated with the matters identified by the 2003 fire risk assessment getting worse. On average a new risk assessment should be updated every year.

Assistant Commissioner, Steve Turek, said:

“Shell failed to respond properly to their risk assessment for three-and-a-half years and had it not been for the fires which led to the inspection, it could have been considerably longer. Had Shell acted upon the findings of the 2003 risk assessment at the time, they would have avoided putting their staff at risk.”

London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, added:

“This conviction shows that major companies are not exempt from prosecution and must take their responsibilities under the RRO seriously. Failure to do so can, as this case has shown, result in a substantial fine.”

Sentencing of Shell International Limited took place at Inner London Crown Court on 2 June 2009 after they pleaded guilty to three breaches of the RRO.

Urgent Heatwave Weather Advisory

At Winter & Company Health & Safety we believe in keeping you up to date, informed and advised in good time.

The Met Office has issued a severe “heat wave warning” for the week commencing Monday, 29th June 2009 which has potentially serious implications for both employer and employee.

Whilst generally there is no upper temperature limit applicable to the working environment, employers are strongly advised to take into account the legal requirement in that “all reasonably foreseeable hazards should be acted upon in order to ensure that no harm occurs to their employees”.

The Met Office warning should therefore be considered as reasonably foreseeable and should therefore be acted upon.

By simply following the advice given, you will be adhering to these requirements and further satisfying your duty of care.


Q. Is there an upper temperature limit applicable to the working environment?
A. No, not unless the work process is the heat source (catering, manufacturing, etc.) in which case a suitable ventilation/exhaust system must be employed.

Q. Is air conditioning a legal requirement?
A. No.  If you do not have air conditioning, open as many windows as possible to ensure adequate air flow throughout the working environment.

Q. Can employees demand to leave work as a consequence of the envisaged heat wave?
A. Generally no unless a relevant health issue affects the personal health, safety and welfare of the employee.

Q. What are the relevant medical conditions?
 Asthma, diabetes, photo sensitive epilepsy, heavily pregnant women, angina and various other medical conditions that may be triggered by excessive climatic conditions.


  • Send out an email or other communication advising all employees to drink adequate amounts of water to ensure hydration.
  • Advise employees to sit in the shade during rest/break periods.
  • If practicable, advise employees using public transport to stagger their journeys outside of rush hour period.
  • Walk on the shady side of the street.
  • Advise employees to avoid heavy exercise during the envisaged period, such as jogging and exercising in non-air conditioned gyms.
  • Instruct contractors working in confined spaces (mechanical and electrical) to take extra care and assess the risk to their health, safety and welfare whilst hot climatic conditions persist.
  • Especially in non-air conditioned environments, distribute additional fans to stimulate air flow/velocity.
  • Advise all outside workers such as gardeners/groundsmen to wear hats, apply sun block and especially stay hydrated and take extra breaks as required.
  • Use all window blinds.
  • Wear loose clothes.


  • Sitting in the sun during break/rest periods
  • Jogging in the open environment
  • Placing highly flammables in direct sunlight


  • Heat stroke
  • Dehydration
  • Increased fatigue/stress
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Sunstroke
  • Migraine and Severe headaches


  • The Health & Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974
  • The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Workplace (Health Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992


This advisory is not an exhaustive list of hazards nor control measures.  Employers, employees and the self-employed should satisfy themselves that all reasonably foreseeable measures should be considered and actioned accordingly.

Swine influenza Advisory

At Winter & Company we recognise that you require up to date information and guidance in respect of Swine influenza.

The World Health Organisation has raised the level of influenza pandemic alert to phase 6 (full pandemic status).

The change to a higher phase of pandemic alert indicates that the criteria for an influenza pandemic have now been met.

Given the widespread presence of the virus, it is considered that containment of the outbreak is not feasible.

The current situation regarding the outbreak of swine influenza A(H1N1) is evolving rapidly.

Swine influenza frequently asked questions

What is swine influenza?

Swine influenza, or “swine flu”, is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease.

What are the implications for human health?

Outbreaks and sporadic human infection with swine influenza have been occasionally reported. Generally clinical symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza but reported clinical presentation ranges broadly from asymptomatic infection to severe pneumonia resulting in death.

Since typical clinical presentation of swine influenza infection in humans resembles seasonal influenza and other acute upper respiratory tract infections, most of the cases have been detected by chance through seasonal influenza surveillance. Mild or asymptomatic cases may have escaped from recognition; therefore the true extent of this disease among humans is unknown.

The virus is contagious, spreading easily from one person to another, and from one country to another. There are currently nearly 30,000 confirmed cases reported in 74 countries, including over 7,000 in the UK.

How do people become infected?

  • Close contact with carriers within an open environment (sneezing & coughing)
  • Contact with infected persons within a confined space (Plane,Train, Bus, Ship)
  • Poor Hygiene (not washing hands properly and frequently)
  • Generally, cross contamination with infected persons

What about the pandemic risk?

The impact of a pandemic caused by such a virus is difficult to predict, it depends on virulence of the virus, existing immunity among people, cross protection by antibodies acquired from seasonal influenza infection and host factors.

Is there a human vaccine to protect swine influenza?

There are no vaccines that contain the current swine influenza virus causing illness in humans. It is not known whether current human seasonal influenza vaccines can provide any protection. Influenza viruses change very quickly. It is therefore important to develop a vaccine against the currently circulating virus strain.

How can I protect myself from getting swine influenza from infected people?

  • Only undertake essential travel and especially avoid countries/regions with confirmed cases.   
  • Avoid confined spaces (plane, train, bus & ship) unless wearing prescribed and proprietary full facial respiration to nose and mouth as directed by the supplier/manufacturer, especially within high risk geographical locations.
  • Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and who have fever and cough.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly.
  • Practice good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food, and keeping physically active.

 If there is an ill person at home:

  • Try to provide the ill person a separate section in the house. If this is not possible, keep the patient at least 1 meter in distance from others.
  • Cover mouth and nose when caring for the ill person.
  • Wear a prescribed respirator (face mask covering nose and mouth)
  • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly after each contact with the ill person.
  • Try to improve the air flow in the area where the ill person stays. Use doors and windows to take advantage of breezes.
  • Keep the environment clean with readily available household cleaning agents.

 What should I do if I think I have swine influenza?

If you feel unwell, have high fever, cough and/or sore throat:

  • Stay at home and keep away from work, school or crowds as much as possible.
  • Rest and take plenty of fluids.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when coughing and sneezing and dispose of the used tissues properly.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Inform family and friends about your illness and seek help for household chores that require contact with other people such as shopping.
  • Contact your doctor or healthcare provider

Winter & Company: Keeping you advised, updated and informed.