A manufacturing company has been fined £1m after a worker was crushed by falling machinery.

As with the recent fine of £5m for the owners of Alton Towers, this huge sum reflects the tougher Health & Safety fines being handed out. These developments should sharply remind organisations to review their risk management.

Higher Health & Safety Fines

Many employers are unaware new sentencing guidelines were introduced in February. They greatly increase the potential penalty for Health & Safety offences. Fines are now based on the amount of business done, for example a business with a turnover:

  • under £2m can be fined up to £450,000
  • between £2-10m can be fined £1m
  • between £10-50m can be fined up to £4m and so on.

Health & Safety fines can now range from £50 to £10m depending on the turnover, offence and whether the fine is proportionate to the organisation’s finances.

If a business is part of a group, courts can increase fines in line with the group’s size. Added to the fine are legal costs. Individuals can also be prosecuted and even jailed for Health & Safety failings.

It was felt the old levels of fine were too soft to have any effect on a business’s finances and stop it breaking Health & Safety law again.

Failure to Plan

In the Hemel Hempstead manufacturing case, workers had been tasked with lifting and moving a large factory milling machine. They tried lifting it with a forklift before using jacks to place it onto skates.

A worker was underneath the machine, cutting and removing bolts securing it to the floor when it overturned and killed him. He carried out the dangerous activity alone.

The court heard Parker Hannifin Manufacturing Ltd did not make sure workers tasked with lifting and moving the machine had sufficient training and experience.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive found the work was not properly planned. The machine’s centre of gravity had not been properly assessed and considered before being moved. This meant an unsafe system of work was used with fatal consequences.

Parker Hannifin Manufacturing Ltd pleaded guilty to breaking the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

HSE Inspector Martin Giles said the “death was entirely preventable…Their ad hoc approach to managing dangerous tasks resulted in one of their workers losing his life”.

He added “All companies can learn from this incident and make sure they have properly risk assessed the situation before they start and that they have trained staff with the right type of experience to carry out the task in hand safely. Taking an extra few minutes to properly think through a problem could save a worker’s life”.

Contact Ellis Whittam to properly plan dangerous work activity.

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