With 2022 behind us, the year was one of the new penalty heights. The highest fine of the year is £1m, more than the highest penalty in 2021. This increase continues the upward trend in health and safety fines when comparing the biggest fine in 2020 to the highest fine in 2019.
On the note of reaching new heights, many of the fines in 2022 resulted from fatal falls. After 2021 saw a lack of safeguarding as the prime reason to be on the receiving end of a fine, height risk measures are now in the spotlight.
Headline UK health & safety statistics
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show that in 2021/2022:
- 123 workers killed at work
- 565,000 non-fatal injuries at work according to self-reports (Labour Force Survey)
- 61,713 non-fatal injuries reported by employers (RIDDOR)
- 1.8 million workers suffered from work-related ill-health
Top 10 H&S breach fines of 2022
- Northern Gas Networks Limited: £5m + £91.5k costs
- Boulby Mine: £3.6m
- Cleveland Bridge UK Limited: £1.5m + £29.2k costs
- Dyson Technology Limited: £1.2m + £11.5k costs
- Siemens Energy Limited: £900k + £6.3k costs
- Hermes Parcelnet Limited: £850k
- Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board: £800k + £10.6k
- Nestle UK Limited: £800k + £7.7k costs
- HC-One Limited: £640k
- S&S Quality Building Contractors Limited: £600k + £36.8k costs
Top 10 H&S breach fines of 2022 in detail
We have examined the UK's biggest health and safety fines of the year thus far to help you understand how to avoid making the same simple mistakes.
1. Northern Gas Networks Ltd: £5m + £91.5k costs
Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 3 (1)
Following a fatal fire and gas explosion in Mirfield, authorities found Northern Gas Networks Ltd to breach Health and Safety regulations and fined £5 million. In addition, authorities ordered the gas operator to pay £91,487 in costs.
The HSE found that the source of the gas escape was a fractured cast iron main running under the carriageway to the front of the property. The homeowner, Elena Frunza, was found during the property search and taken to the hospital. She passed away the following day.
Upon investigation, the HSE found that this main did not appear in Northern Gas Networks drawings and maintenance failings in line with the Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. The HSE concluded that they failed "to follow their safety procedures, in this case requiring the prompt and effective investigation and correction of anomalies in their records."
2. Boulby Mine: £3.6m
Section 2 (1) and two counts of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The owners of Boulby Mine, a mining company, have been fined £3.6m after an investigation by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed deficiencies in the company's risk assessment and planning of works processes.
Poor health and safety practices and safeguards led to the serious injury of two electrical contractors. One victim received serious burns from an 11,000-volt electrical system that electrocuted him after he unknowingly came into contact with a live electrical chamber in 2016. The second victim came in contact with a live conductor on a 415-volt electrical system in 2019.
3. Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd: £1.5m + £29.2k costs
Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 & Work at Height Regulations 2005
Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd has been found guilty of breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and several safety regulations. The company was subsequently fined £1.5 million and ordered to pay costs of £29,239.
Electrician Keith Poppleton fatally fell 8 metres from a crane's walkway when an access panel gave way beneath him. He was repairing wiring, which was causing short-circuiting at the time of the accident.
The HSE found that the company failed to maintain the access panels of the crane walkway. Furthermore, the investigation also found that the panel had undergone weld repair, but there was no evidence that the company had ensured they securely replaced the panel. The HSE inspector, Jonathon Wills, said, "this was an incident that could easily have been prevented had the company considered the risks associated with such access panels."
4. Dyson Technology Ltd: £1.2m + £11.5k costs
Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
The HSE has fined technology company, Dyson Technology Limited £1.2m after an employee suffered head and chest injuries when he was hit by a 1.5-tonne milling machine.
This incident could have been fatal, and the employee only escaped being crushed since the machine landed on two toolboxes and a handle of another machine. Upon investigation, the HSE found that Dyson Technology Limited failed to provide suitable and sufficient information to employees undertaking the task.
In addition to a lack of instruction and training, the firm did not adequately assess the task and devise a safe system to move the machinery safely.
5. Siemens Energy Ltd: £900k + £6.3k costs
Regulation 13(1) of the Construction Design & Management Regulations 2015
The HSE fined a principal contractor and subcontractor after an employee's retina was damaged during an explosion caused by a cable strike during construction works. Siemens Energy Limited was the principal contractor, and they subcontracted high voltage cabling expert VolkerInfra Ltd.
VolkerInfra Ltd's employee was driving the excavator that struck an existing live cable, resulting in multiple live explosions. Upon investigation, the HSE found that Siemens Energy did not fully complete the permit to dig.
In addition, Siemens Energy and VolkerInfra Ltd had failed to check the able marking before work began. Authorities also found the monitoring and supervision at work to be inadequate. Siemens Energy was fined £900k with costs of £6.3k, and VolkerInfra Ltd. was fined £180k and to pay costs of £6.4k.
6. Hermes Parcelnet Ltd: £850k
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Section 2(1) and Section 33(1)(a)
The HSE has fined Hermes Parcelnet Limited (now called Evri) £850k after an employee was crushed to death at one of the company's depots. While manoeuvring a loaded trailer, David Kennedy walked backwards and was crushed between the arm of the moving trailer and a stationary trailer.
His injuries were severe, including a collapsed lung, multiple rib fractures and significant internal injuries. At the time of the incident, he was being trained. After investigation, the HSE found that the company failed to plan and assess the risks of training properly. They had also not implemented their own policy for training.
7. Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board: £800k +£10.6k costs
Section 3(1) & Section 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
The health board of Cwm Taf Morgannwg has been fined £800k following the death of an elderly patient. An investigation by the HSE found that the health board failed to take action on previous absconding incidents, which would have better protected Lynwen Thomas, who fell in icy conditions on hospital grounds.
The investigation revealed that there had been no practical measures taken despite previous incidents, one involving Mrs Thomas. Only after the fatal incident the hospital ward starting putting measures in place to protect vulnerable patients from potentially coming to serious harm.
8. Nestle UK Ltd: £800k + £7.7k costs
Regulation 11(1) of the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
Nestle has been fined £800k, ordered to pay costs of £7.7k and issued a victim surcharge of £190. This penalty is the result of an employee suffering life-changing injuries. The incident occurred in November 2020 when the employee was pulled into a roller mechanism on a conveyor machine used to make chocolate sweets.
The employee, a maintenance technician, was checking the machine when his sleeve caught in a roller and dragged his left arm into the machine, where it was trapped between the roller and a conveyor belt. Upon investigation, the HSE found that the company failed to properly assess the risk created by the rollers.
Furthermore, Nestle failed to guard the dangerous part of the machinery, the roller. There was a foreseeable risk to employees, and the company had been prosecuted for a similar incident in the past at their Halifax factory.
9. HC-One Ltd: £640k
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Section 3(1) and Section 33(1)(a)
HC-One Limited has been fined £640k after an Orchard Care Home resident choked to death on a jam doughnut. The resident had suffered from a stroke, been diagnosed with dementia and been assessed as at a high risk of choking.
After investigating, the HSE found that the staff who gave out snacks at the care home were not properly trained and didn't have the awareness that certain foods are unsuitable for each diet. As a result, they regularly gave the resident food that was unsuitable for her diet.
10. S&S Quality Building Contractors Ltd: £600k +£36.8k costs
Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
The construction firm, S&S Quality Building Contractors Limited, was fined £600k for "serious and repeated failings" regarding fire safety risk management on a construction site.
The director of the firm was also found guilty of repeated failings in managing the fire risk during work at a construction site. He was ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and fined £4.2k. Following reports that people had been sleeping on-site in Essex, the HSE launched an investigation.
The investigation, assisted by Essex Fire & Rescue Service, revealed that the environment at this site was poorly managed and construction had been carried out in an unsafe manner. Furthermore, the failings of fire management on the site created risks to employees and members of the public who visited show flats outside of business hours.
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