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10 Highest UK Health & Safety Fines of 2019

Posted by

David Mangion

on 03 Jan 2020

10 Highest UK Health & Safety Fines of 2019

In recent years, penalties for health and safety breaches in the UK have steadily risen, with 2019 being no exception. In fact, the ten highest H&S fines of 2019 were all over £1 million!

While some of the fines sound excessive, after reading the details, you’re bound to find them more reasonable given just how devastating the consequences of some of the breaches were.

The sad reality is that all of the human tragedies you’ll find on this list were completely avoidable, so let these cases act as a reminder of the importance of ensuring total health and safety compliance across all parts of your company. 

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1. Cemex UK Operations Ltd: £1m

H&S at Work Act Breaches: Sections 2 (1) & 33 (1) (a)

A building materials company, Cemex UK Operations Ltd, was fined £1,000,000 after a worker was killed at a site in West Calder, Scotland. While carrying out repairs on a dry-sided conveyor, James Brownlie was partly crushed by the conveyor’s centring machine, after it unexpectedly activated.

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) opened an investigation into the case and discovered that Cemex should have made sure that the centring machine was isolated before any repair works were carried out. Ultimately, a lack of adequate health and safety compliance led to a tragedy that could very easily have been prevented.

2. Delphi Diesel Systems Limited: £1m + £9k costs

H&S at Work Act Breaches: Section 2 (1)

In July 2017, two of Delphi Diesel Systems Limited’s employees were cleaning a distillation tank, when the highly flammable cleaning compound’s vapour suddenly ignited, causing an explosion. Both workers suffered severe burns as a result of the explosion, and one of them was harmed so badly that he was unable to return to work for more than two months.

The HSE found that Delphi had no safe system of work in place for the cleaning of distillation tanks, no risk assessment had been carried out, and no thought had been given to the use of inflammable materials during cleaning.

3. Clancy Docwra Limited: £1m + £109k costs

H&S at Work Act Breaches: Sections 2 (1) & 3 (1)

Clancy Dowcra Limited, a UK construction company, was ordered to pay over £1 million in fines and court costs after a worker was struck and killed by an excavator on their site. Kevin Campbell had been working the night shift and was disconnecting lifting accessories from a pile close to the 35-tonne excavator when he was suddenly hit by its arm and ended up crushed against a wall.

Clancy Dowcra was found guilty of failing to ensure the safety so far as is reasonably practicable of its own workers and others working on their site. But that wasn’t the end of it. The HSE also found Daniel Walsh, the site’s supervisor who was operating the excavator at the time, guilty of failing to take reasonable care of others present at the time. He had to pay court costs amounting to £15,000 and received a 6-month prison sentence, suspended for a year.

4. Veolia ES (UK): £1m + £130k costs

H&S at Work Act Breaches: Section 2 (1)

In early 2019, a refuse collection company, Veolia ES (UK) Limited, was ordered to pay over £1 million after an employee was killed when he was hit by a reversing dustcart as he was making his way across the worksite.

The HSE investigation discovered that a number of vehicles, including lorries and refuse collection vehicles, were moving around the site with no specific controls in place to protect workers. They also found that Veolia had not performed an adequate risk assessment of the dangers involved in working on such a site.

5. Marathon Oil UK LLC: £1.2m

H&S at Work Act Breaches: Section 33 (1)

Offshore Installations Breaches: Regulation 4 (1)

On Boxing Day 2015, more than two tonnes of high-pressure methane gas were suddenly released on one of Marathon Oil’s offshore sites. The explosion caused a considerable amount of destruction to the site, however since most of the staff were gathered in the accommodation block waiting for their Boxing Day meal, nobody was significantly harmed.

The blast happened after an 8-inch diameter pipe ruptured as a result of ‘Corrosion Under Insulation’, which is a well-known industry risk, according to HSE inspector, Ahmedur Rezwan. The timing of this potentially fatal event was a small miracle since had this happened on a typical working day, many lives could have been lost.

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6. 2 Sisters Food Group: £1.4m + £ 38k costs

H&S at Work Act Breaches: Sections 2 (1) & 3 (1)

In March 2019, 2 Sisters Food Group, a West Yorkshire food processing company, were handed a hefty fine after one of their employees was injured whilst on the job. While attempting to unblock one of the machines on the poultry slaughter line, the worker was hit by a metal stillage, causing him serious crush injuries, including a punctured lung and fractures to his ribs and back.

Investigators found that the company had failed to implement simple measures to fix the machine’s guarding deficiencies. Even more alarmingly, it emerged that blockages were typically cleared with the machine still running, thereby significantly increasing the risk and danger involved. HSE inspector Kirsty Storer said that “this should serve as a lesson to others in the food processing industry about the importance of effectively guarding their machinery to stop others being similarly injured.”

7. Synergy Housing & Orona Ltd: £1.5m + £80k costs

H&S at Work Act Breaches: Section 3 (1)

In one of the most tragic cases on this list, two companies were fined in January 2019 following the death of a child. The tragedy occurred when five-year-old Alexys Brown put her head outside of a broken vision panel in her home’s lift as it was travelling upwards. Since she was alone in the lift at the time, nobody was able to offer immediate assistance, and she ended up losing her life as a result of the injuries sustained.

The HSE investigation noted many critical failings on the parts of Synergy Housing Limited, the property owner, and Orona Limited, the company in charge of the lift’s maintenance and repairs. These failings included a lack of inspections, the vision panel not being replaced or repaired, no risk assessment carried out when the Browns moved in, key failsafe mechanisms not in place, and tenants not being given critical safety information. As a result, Synergy Housing was fined £1 million (and £40,000 costs), while Orona was fined £533,000 (and £40,000 costs).

8. Karro Foods: £1.9m + £8k costs

H&S at Work Act Breaches: Section 2 (1)

Karro Foods Ltd, a Yorkshire food manufacturing company, was fined almost £2 million after two of its employees were critically injured after falling more than four metres through a roof light. One of them suffered a punctured lung, muscular contusions to his thigh, and four rib fractures. The other worker suffered muscular injuries in one leg, a fractured skull, and an ear injury which still affects his memory, balance, and mental health.

This case’s critical factor was the build-up of moss and grime on the roof light which had accumulated over the years. It was thus invisible to the naked eye, and nobody had made any of the workers aware of its presence. After the fine was given out, HSE inspector Mark Slater said that it was “a wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to provide adequate controls against the risks arising from working at height.”

9. Celsa Manufacturing (UK): £1.8m + £146k costs

Management of H&S at Work Breaches: Regulation 3

Following a 2015 explosion which left two workers dead and one seriously injured, Celsa Manufacturing (UK) Ltd have now been issued a hefty fine after pleading guilty for allowing such an avoidable tragedy to take place. The three employees affected were draining hydraulic lubrication oil from an accumulator vessel, when a flammable atmosphere developed and unexpectedly ignited, causing the fatal blast.

After looking into the case, investigators discovered that the procedure which was being carried out at the time was neither consistently undergone nor properly understood by many of Celsa’s workers, indicating that a tragedy such as this was just waiting to happen. Yet, this could have been prevented entirely had an appropriate risk assessment been carried out and suitable control measures implemented.

10. Valero Energy UK & B&A Contracts: £5.1m + £1m costs

H&S at Work Act Breaches: Sections 2 (1) & 3 (1)

The largest fines of the year were handed to Valero Energy UK Ltd and B&A Contracts Ltd over an explosion at a Pembrokeshire oil refinery which took place in 2011, leaving four workers dead and one critically harmed. The blast happened as the five workers were using a vacuum tanker to drain one of the Amine Recovery Unit’s tanks. The resulting explosion was so severe that it blew off the tank’s 5-tonne roof, launching it 55 metres through the air, narrowly missing a highly flammable pipe track, before hitting a butane storage sphere.

HSE investigators discovered that the refinery’s safety management systems possessed numerous longstanding failures. This resulted in the Amine Recovery Unit’s flammable atmosphere risks not being adequately controlled or understood by everyone involved. For their failure to prevent this human tragedy, Valero was fined £5 million (and £1 million costs), while B & A Contracts were fined £120,000 (and £40,000 costs).

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