The health and safety fines handed out in 2021 have been substantially less than 2020. All of them have been under £1 million.
Many of the fines handed out this year have come about as a result of 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 according to the 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)
We have examined the causes of the biggest health and safety fines in the UK, to help you understand how to avoid the substantial penalties associated with compliance breaches.
Top 10 H&S Breach Fines of 2021
- Nestlé UK Ltd: £640k + £30k costs
- Fine: London Borough of Tower Hamlets: £330k + £6k costs
- Pontrilas Sawmills: £200k + £22k costs
- CNC Speedwell: £120k + £10k costs
- Northwood Tissue: £120k + £5k costs
- Leeds & Bradford Boiler Company: £88k inc costs
- P Irving & Sons Ltd: £60k + £20k costs
- Henley Heating & Plumbing: £51k
- PCR Steel: £50k + £10k costs
- MPM North West: £50k
1. Nestlé UK Ltd: £640k + £30k costs
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 Breach: Reg 11
The largest health and safety fine so far in 2021 was handed to Nestlé UK 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.
2. London Borough 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.
3. 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 from beneath the raised lift conveyor. Unplanned maintenance activities give rise to the risk of fatal incidents.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Leeds & Bradford Boiler Company: £88k inc 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.
7. 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'.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
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