It's only the first quarter of 2022, and it's already shaping up to be a year of new penalty heights. The highest fine of the year thus far 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 handed out this year have resulted from fatal falls. After last year 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 2020/2021:
- 142 workers killed at work
- 441,000 non-fatal injuries at work according to self-reports (Labour Force Survey)
- 51,211 non-fatal injuries reported by employers (RIDDOR)
- 1.7 million workers suffered from work-related ill-health
Top 10 H&S breach fines of 2022
- Northern Gas Networks Ltd: £5m + £91.5k costs
- Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd: £1.5m + £29.2k costs
- Able UK Ltd: £200k + £21k costs
- Hanson Springs Ltd: £200k + £5.4k
- Ensure Asbestos Management Ltd: £100k
- J Murphy Aggregates Ltd: £70k
- Ruttle Plant (Birmingham) Ltd: £66.7k + £1.8k costs
- A & S Metal Recycling Ltd: £66k
- Queensferry Car Breakers Ltd: £60k + £3.9k costs
- AJM Services (Midlands) Ltd: £51k +£5 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. 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. 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 that 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 itself had undergone weld repair, but there was no evidence that the company ensured they securely replaced the panel. The HSE inspector, Jonathon Wills, said that "this was an incident that could easily have been prevented had the company considered the risks associated with such access panels."
3. Able UK Ltd: £200k + £21k costs
Health and Safety at Work act 1974 Regulation 2(1)
In another fatal fall, Able UK Ltd was fined £200k with nearly £21k in costs after one of their workers fell 15 meters after the platform he was working on gave way.
The civil engineering company was working on a contract to dismantle four platforms from the Brent North Sea oil and gas field. The accident occurred on the Brent Bravo platform. Upon investigation, the HSE found that the company had failed to conduct a full structural appraisal of the platform before dismantling it. Therefore, the risk assessment and method statement could not reflect the appraisal findings.
Authorities found this to fail to ensure employees can carry out work safety. HSE inspector stated that "it is essential for those in control of the work to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all those involved with the work."
4. Hanson Springs Ltd: £200k + £5.4k
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Regulation 2(1)
Following an accident involving a worker severing two fingers, Hanson Springs Ltd was fined £200k and ordered to pay around £5.4k in costs.
The incident occurred after the worker tried to replace a worn blade of a vertical bandsaw. An investigation by the HSE found that the employee had received poor training in using the machine, and the supervisor did not conduct a formal competency test.
Furthermore, the employee's training included lubricating a new blade despite this being unnecessary with a self-lubricating machine. As a result, operational management had no safe method of blade lubrication in place.
5. Ensure Asbestos Management Ltd: £100k
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 2(1) and 3(1)
Ensure Asbestos Management Ltd has been fined £100k, and its director has been jailed after failing to protect workers from asbestos exposure. There is little prospect of payment with the company in liquidation, so authorities did not order costs.
The asbestos removal company was on contract for a refurbishment project at a department store in Plymouth, where its workers raised concerns about being put in harm's way. Upon investigation, the HSE found that the company had deliberately falsified documents and taken shortcuts in managing the danger of asbestos exposure which put workers at risk.
HSE inspector stated that the company had "failed to work within the law despite having a wealth of knowledge on the risks associated with asbestos exposure".
6. J Murphy Aggregates Ltd: £70k
Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 2 (1) and Section 3 (1)
After a falling excavator struck a worker, J Murphy Aggregates has been fined £700k. The company's director and excavator operator received suspensions and custodial sentences and were ordered to pay costs.
The excavator operator was using the excavator during the incident when the ground below the machine gave way. As a result, the excavator tumbled down the stockpile into a worker. The 58-year-old was tossed off the crushing machine he was maintaining and sustained serious injuries that kept him in the hospital for a year after the incident.
The HSE's investigation found that the company's director employed the excavator operator directly to operate a tracked excavator. However, he had no formal qualifications or training in this area.
7. Ruttle Plant Hire (Birmingham) Ltd: £66.7k + £1.8k costs
Construction(Design & Management) Regulations 2015 & The Work at Height Regulations 2005
Plant hire company Ruttle Plant Hire (Birmingham) Ltd has been fined approximately £66.7k and ordered to pay costs of £1.8k after failing to provide minimum welfare facilities and leaving workers at risk of falling from a height.
While building a new aggregate recycling facility, some parts of the roof were difficult to reach, forcing workers to step onto the roof where there was no edge protection. This put them at risk of a 30ft drop. Furthermore, these workers had been on site for a significant time without the minimum welfare facilities, such as hand washing.
After further investigation, the HSE found that site management had left workers unsupervised, and there were no preventative measures to mitigate the fall from height risk.
8. A & S Metal Recycling Ltd: £66k
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 2(1)
Both metal recycling company, A & S Metal Recycling Ltd, and its director were sentenced following a 15-year-old worker sustained serious burns in an explosion.
The adolescent worker fed aerosol canisters into a shredding machine which subsequently exploded and resulted in a flash fire.
The HSE investigated the incident and found that the work unit was inappropriate for processing aerosol canisters. There were no measures to prevent or mitigate the risk of explosions or fires. Furthermore, the company employed minors to carry out this task using inadequate equipment.
A & S Metal Recycling Ltd was fined £66k, and its director was suspended for two years, given a 6-month custodial sentence and ordered to complete unpaid work.
9. Queensferry Car Breakers Ltd: £60k + £3.9k costs
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969
Motor vehicle scrap company, Queensferry Car Breakers Ltd, was fined £60k and ordered to pay costs of nearly £4k after a worker suffered crush injuries.
The company director, Ghol Mohammad Navabi, ran over his employee with a forklift truck. Mr Navabi had asked the worker to collect a car bonnet. The worker returned quicker than Mr Navabi expected, during which time he reversed down the ramp and ran the worker over.
The HSE's investigation revealed that the forklift truck had not been adequately maintained where the breaks and steering were defective. Moreover, there were no measures to segregate pedestrians and moving vehicles. The company was also without an employer's Liability Compulsory Insurance.
10. AJM Services (Midlands) Ltd: £51k + £5 costs
Work at Height Regulations 2005 4(1)
AJM Services (Midlands) Ltd was sentenced after an employee fell from 6 metres while working on a replacement roof project.
The company was fined £51k and ordered to pay costs of £5k after the HSE found that the area accessed by the worker did not have safety nets fitted. Since this part of the roof was fragile asbestos cement sheets, the employer failed to take reasonable measures to reduce the risk to those working on the roof.
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