Health and Safety – there is no hiding place!
The manufacturing sector is wide and diverse. It can also be very dangerous. Each year, on average, 22 workers in the manufacturing industry die in workplace accidents. This means that the industry is top of the agenda for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Over the last decade, there has been an increase in corporate and individual accountability for health and safety failures, especially some high-profile cases resulting in the death of a worker. Health and safety laws and regulations which have historically been labelled “toothless” by critics now certainly have teeth and they are razor sharp! These regulations are not to be ignored; directors need to know their responsibilities and take note as they will not be protected behind the corporate veil of the company. There is no hiding place!
An example from this year is Craig Services & Access Limited (“Craig Services”). Craig Services specialised in hiring out lifting and plant equipment. The company hired an unsafe cherry picker to J M Access Solutions Ltd (“J M Access”) which buckled during use, resulting in the death of a J M Access employee. Consequently, the company director of Craig Services was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for breaching health and safety law.
Under health and safety law, in hiring out the equipment, Craig Services were under an absolute duty to maintain and repair the equipment to ensure that it was in good working order and to ensure the equipment was checked and tested at least every six months. The company also owed a duty of care to the employee to ensure he was not, so far as was reasonably practicable, prone to risk of injury or death.
The Sheriff Court ruled that Craig Services had breached all of their duties showing a lack of regard for the safety of the equipment they hired out. In giving its judgment, the Court looked behind Craig Services to the director of the company, Donald Craig. The Court found that the director’s disregard for safety in attempts to fix the cherry picker to quickly push it back into service was a serious breach of duty which could only result in a custodial sentence.
Craig Services was fined a total of £61,000 for the breach of its duty to maintain and inspect the equipment to ensure it was in good working order and its breach of duty of care to the employees of J M Access. J M Access was also fined £30,000 for failing to inspect the equipment prior to its use by their employees. The unsafe nature of the cherry picker should have been picked up by the company and should never have been used by their employees.
Directors need to be aware that as the controlling mind behind the company, if an offence is committed by the company which is attributable to the neglect of the director or manager that individual shall be guilty, alongside the company, and will be punished accordingly. This should be taken very seriously.
It is vitally important that you know and understand what is required under these regulations. We can help you to ensure that appropriate safety measures, safe systems of work and stipulated maintenance of plant and equipment are all implemented to ensure your company’s compliance.
This article was co-written by Rebecca Cox.
At MacRoberts, our team of manufacturing experts has a wealth of experience in advising and training clients in relation to health and safety and regulatory compliance, so please do not hesitate to contact us.