10 Highest UK Health & Safety Fines of 2021

Posted by

Matt Green

on 07 Oct 2021

10 Highest UK Health & Safety Fines of 2021

The health and safety fines handed out in 2021 have been substantially less than 2020. All of them have been under £1 million.

So far, 2021 has been a bumper year for safety fines, with the highest penalty double the biggest fine in 2020, whilst the highest fine in 2019 only £1 million!

Many of the fines handed out this year resulted from equipment not being safeguarded. If a risk assessment identifies any significant risk of major injury to operators and others, checks should take place by an inspector with sufficient knowledge and experience.

Headline UK health & safety statistics

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show that in 2019/2020:

  • 111 workers killed at work
  • 693,000 working people sustain an injury at work (Labour Force Survey)
  • 65,427 non-fatal injuries to employees (RIDOR)
  • 38.8 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
  • £16.2 billion estimated costs of injuries and ill health from current working conditions (2018/19)

Free Workplace  Accidents Training Presentation

Top 10 H&S Breach Fines of 2021

  1. National Grid: £4m + £92k costs
  2. British Airways: £1.8m + £92k costs
  3. EPUT: £1.5m + £86k costs
  4. Enterprise Managed Services: £1m + £60k costs
  5. Drayton Manor Park: £1m
  6. Young's Seafood: £787.5k +33k costs
  7. BAM Nuttall: £700k
  8. Nestlé UK: £640k + £30k costs
  9. Kepak Group: £700k + £38k costs
  10. Restore Datashred: £600k + £6k costs

Top 10 H&S Breach Fines of 2021 in detail

We have examined the causes of the UK's biggest health and safety fines to help you understand how to avoid the substantial penalties associated with compliance breaches.

1. National Grid: £4m + £92k costs

Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 / 3 / 1

The largest health and safety fine so far in 2021 was handed to National Grid Gas plc. The health and safety offences arose from its failure to make records available for hundreds of properties, resulting in routine safety inspections not taking place.

When National Grid Gas sold part of its operations to Cadent Gas in 2016, the records of many buildings were not transferred. That meant that condition surveys, inspections and routine maintenance had been missed for years.

It highlights that even if injuries do not result from such mistakes, you can still be subject to hefty fines.

2. British Airways: £1.8m + £92k costs

Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 / 2 / 1

British Airways was fined £1.8m after an employee was crushed by a tug vehicle at Heathrow Airport.

An HSE investigation found that the practice of walking between the two provided lanes was unsafe and that British Airways was in breach of health and safety regulations.

The HSE identified significant failings in the general management of health and safety and workplace transport risks, including issues relating to supervision and monitoring, risk assessment and training.

HSE inspector Megan Carr described the situation, "an incident waiting to happen."

3. EPUT: £1.5m + £86k costs

Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 / 3 / 1

Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) was fined £1.5m for a litany of systematic health and safety failures that lead to avoidable deaths.

The offence arose in connection to their failure to prevent suicides. The risk posed by ligature points had been highlighted yet the trust took years to take action.

Judge Cavanagh commented that there was "no doubt the failures to remove ligature points were a significant cause in the deaths of 11 people who died during the relevant time period and of a 12th person who died just after and a number of near misses."

4. Enterprise Managed Services: £1m + £60k costs

Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 / 2 / 1

Enterprise Managed Services was fined £1m after a worker was fatally injured after tripping and falling under the wheels of a reversing refuse lorry.

The HSE investigation found that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment had not been carried out for their collection route and there was a failure to adequately supervise the Daventry waste and recycling round.

An HSE Inspector stated that "those in control of workplaces are responsible for identifying and implementing suitable methods of working to reduce the need for vehicle reversing."

5. Drayton Manor Park: £1m

Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 / 3 / 1

The former operator of the Drayton Manor theme park was fined £1m following the tragic drowning of an 11-year old on one of their rides.

After falling from a Splash Canyon, Evha Jannath waded back to the conveyor belt only to fall into deeper water and drown.

An HSE investigation revealed that there were inadequate control measures in place to detect a person in the water. The CCTV covered only half the ride and the monitors were not suitable for observing passengers behaviour. In addition, there was no system in place to rescue anyone who had fallen into the water.

As the operator from that time went into administration, the penalty will likely never be paid.

6. Young's Seafood: £787.5k +33k costs

Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 / 2 / 1

Seafood processor Young's was was fined £787k after an employee two fingers in a fishcake machine.

When the member of staff lifted a guard to clean, this should have stopped the machine from running. Instead, it continued to run and did not even respond to the emergency stop button.

An HSE investigation found poor communication between maintenance and the shop floor plus an inadequate fault reporting system.

7. BAM Nuttall: £700k

Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 / 15 / 2

BAM Nuttall was fined £700k when an employee died after being run over by a six-tonne dumper whilst changing a blade on some equipment.

The firm didn't have a system in place to segregate people from vehicles and allow safe maintenance.

8. Nestlé UK Ltd: £640k + £30k costs

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 Breach: Reg 11

Nestlé UK received a £640k fine after an employee was dragged into a machine on the production line of their Albion Mills site in Halifax.

The technical operator placed his right hand close to a gap in the machine housing, while an emery cloth held in his right hand was dragged into the machine taking his arm with it. The employee was unable to reach any of the emergency stop buttons located around the machine from the position in which he was trapped.

The company had failed to prevent access to dangerous moving parts of the machine, namely an ‘in-running nip’. There was a gap large enough to allow access at a belt conveyor entry on the After Eight line.

9. Kepak Group: £700k + £38k costs

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations / 4 / 1

Kepak Group was fined £700k after the employee of a contractor was struck and then dragged by a forklift truck resulting in life-changing injuries. 

The HSE investigation found that the company’s workplace transport risk assessment did not manage pedestrian and vehicle segregation adequately.

10. Restore Datashred: £600k + £30k costs

Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 / 3 / 1

Restore Datashred was fined £600k following the death of one of its forklift drivers. 

The HSE investigation uncovered that the driver was not wearing a seatbelt. They went on to comment that such equipment should be operated only by those 'trained and competent', and then only with appropriate supervision and management. 

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Other large health & safety fines in 2021

Siemens Gamesa: £533k + £16k costs

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

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy was fined after an agency worker fell from a blade platform.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that on 11 November 2017, the 30-year-old was working inside one of the turbine blades at the company’s factory in Hull.

Inside the blade is a midway platform referred to as the "web". He was standing on the web, vacuuming the inside of the blade to clean off fibreglass dust and deposits.

As he approached the edge of the web, towards the end of the turbine blade, he fell a distance of 1.8 meters, sustaining injuries including a broken collarbone, 10 broken ribs, a broken wrist and a punctured lung, meaning he was off work for two months.

An investigation by the HSE found Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy had provided a ladder to access the web, but they had not provided any fall protection on either side of the ladder.

LB of Tower Hamlets: £330k + £6k costs

H&S At Work Act Breach: Section 3 (1)

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets was fined after a five-year-old girl died when playground equipment collapsed on top of her at Mile End Park.

The child was swinging on a rope attached at one end to a wooden post when the play equipment gave way. The post snapped at its base causing the wooden structure to collapse on top of her, sustaining fatal head injuries.

The local authority had previously implemented a system of inspections to ensure that play equipment was safe to use. However, the play equipment at Mile End Park had not been inspected by a playground inspector since September 2013. If the equipment had been inspected and tested for signs of rot, the risk may have been identified and appropriate action taken to remove and replace the equipment.

Pontrilas Sawmills: £200k + £22k costs

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

Pontrilas Sawmills was fined after a worker was fatally injured when a lift conveyor collapsed on top of him.

Two employees were working below a lift conveyor to remove wood debris. The machine had been experiencing a fault, which had prevented the conveyor from descending. While the employees were working, the conveyor suddenly dropped downwards causing fatal crush injuries to one employee and bruising and abrasion injuries to the head of the other employee.

The company had failed to assess the risks to the employees during the cleaning operation or provide a suitable system of work for removing debris beneath the raised lift conveyor. Unplanned maintenance activities give rise to the risk of fatal incidents.

CNC Speedwell: £120k + £10k costs

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

CNC Speedwell was fined after an employee sustained a severed finger, lacerations and tendon damage whilst operating a stud assembly machine at a factory in Brownhills, West Midlands.

Employees had been using an unsafe system of work placing items by hand very close to exposed rotating parts of the machine whilst wearing gloves. Various options were available to prevent this injury had the work been risk assessed, including guarding and two-handed controls.

A safe system of work should have been in place and operators should have received suitable training. Horrific, life-changing injuries sustained in entanglement incidents can be avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.

Leeds & Bradford Boiler Company: £120k + £8k costs

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

A worker broke his upper arm and suffered crush injuries to his lower arm in a workplace incident.

Paul Madarasz was machining a two-tonne metal plate on a vertical borer machine. While he was doing this the cover plate slipped off the lifting attachment trapping his arm underneath. Mr Madarasz had to undergo several long operations on his lower and upper arm and is unlikely to regain full function in his right arm.

The HSE issued a statement saying that this incident could have been avoided by using suitable lifting accessories, implementing safe working practices, and ensuring these are followed through appropriate supervision and monitoring.

Northwood Tissue: £120k + £5k costs

H&S At Work Act Breach: Section 2 (1)

Northwood Tissue was fined after an employee suffered serious injuries through unguarded machinery.

The employee entered a running unguarded wet-lap machine at their factory in Stockport to move fabric that was tracking off course. He was then pulled into the machine by his arm resulting in a broken wrist, broken and dislocated elbow and snapped forearm.

A fixed guard was not in place and there was no safe system of work in place to ensure the task could be carried out in a safe way. If the appropriate guards and a suitable safe system of work had been in place, the injuries sustained by the employee could easily have been prevented.

P Irving & Sons Ltd: £60k + £20k costs

H&S at Work Act Breach: Section 2

A worker was seriously injured when his hand came into contact with a rotating bandsaw blade. The machine had already been stopped several times that morning to replace damaged blades. The employee assumed the problem had been fixed as an engineer had been called.

Rather than stopping the machine, the employee pulled apart the base of the cabinet, creating a gap large enough to place his hand inside. Holding a torch to see what was causing the blockage, the employee put his hand inside the gap. There was no interlock or sensor to this part of the housing to stop the machine, and the sensor to the top of the housing failed to activate, so the machine continued.

An HSE investigation found there were insufficient measures in place to stop the blade rotating when the cabinet housing was opened. The risk of serious injury to employees operating this machine had existed for 'some considerable time'.

Henley Heating & Plumbing: £51k

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

Henley Heating and Plumbing Limited were fined for failure to safely decommission a back boiler.

The HSE issued a safety alert to raise awareness of the potential dangers of lighting a solid fuel fire when a redundant solid fuel back boiler has been left within the fireplace.

The alert follows several incidents in the last five years, three of which resulted in serious injury, and sadly in one case, a fatality. The redundant solid fuel back boiler had been left in a sealed condition and sometime later when a coal or wood fire was lit in front of the boiler, the unit heated up sufficiently for the internal pressure to cause the boiler casing to explode.

Amber Industries: £52.5k + £14k costs

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

Amber Industries Limited in Oldham, Lancashire has been fined after a 17-year-old apprentice got his hand caught in machinery.

The apprentice was reaming workpieces using an unguarded pillar drill whilst wearing gloves. The glove on his right hand became entangled in the drill bit resulting in three of his fingers being severed.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there were no guards in place to prevent access to rotating parts and that the company had failed to provide suitable information, instruction and training to the apprentice, including clear instructions not to wear gloves. They also failed to provide adequate supervision and monitoring.

HSE inspector Jane Carroll said: "This injury was easily preventable, and the risk should have been identified. Employers should make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery".

PCR Steel: £50k + £10k costs

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

An employee of South East Galvanizers Limited had visited PCR Steel Ltd at their premises to collect a load. He was performing an unplanned lifting operation, loading a metal balcony base frame onto a flatbed trailer, when the incident occurred.

The load was not secured and the balcony frame weighing approximately 400kg fell and crushed him as he was standing on the back of the trailer bed.

An investigation by the HSE found the company failed to ensure that the lifting operation was properly planned by a competent person, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a safe manner.

MPM North West: £50k

Health and Safety At Work Act Breach: Section 2 (1)

After the Eastbourne pier had been badly damaged by a fire in 2014, repair work was being undertaken. Stephen Penrice fell through the Victorian structure and died after landing on the pebble beach 30ft below.

Images shown to the jury depicted a worksite that was ‘generally unsafe’, with gaps between the loose boards, no attached harness or wire available to workers or safety nets below to break a fall.

His employers owed a duty to take reasonable care of his safety by providing a safe environment and to provide a safe means of access and egress from the pier.

How to avoid health & safety fines

  • Do not allow the removal of safety guards or other safety measures for any reason.
  • Ensure that staff are provided with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and that it is worn whenever required.
  • Never allow the use of any work equipment without proper training or authorisation.
  • Make sure that work equipment is only used for tasks for which it was designed.
  • Find ways to avoid working at height whenever possible.
  • Prevent falls from occurring by using a safe workplace and suitable equipment.
  • Minimise the consequences of potential falls with collective and individual protection.
  • Train your staff to ensure they're familiar with emergency and rescue procedures.

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