The highest fine of 2023 exceeds that of the highest penalty in 2021. This penalty is also not too far off 2022's biggest HSE fine. The top five fines have hit the million-pound mark with related that add up to hundreds of thousands.
On one hand, it's encouraging that health and safety breaches are met with serious consequences. On the other hand, it's alarming that these breaches warrant such high penalties. Reflecting on how the biggest fine in 2019 doubled in 2020, and this upward trend means health and safety training is more important than ever.
Falls from height remain the biggest reason for fatal accidents among UK workers. Over a five-year period from 2017 to 2022, a fatal fall was the cause of death for 174 workers in Great Britain. That is a quarter of those killed in accidents at work.
Construction remains the most dangerous industry in terms of health and safety, contributing to almost a quarter of all work-related deaths in 2022/23, according to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Headline UK health & safety statistics
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show that in 2022/2023:
- 135 workers killed at work
- 561,000 non-fatal injuries at work according to self-reports (Labour Force Survey)
- 60,645 non-fatal injuries reported by employers (RIDDOR)
- 1.8 million workers suffered from work-related ill-health
- 35.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
Top 10 H&S breach fines of 2023
- Kier Infrastructure and Overseas Ltd: £4.4m + £87.7k costs
- Valencia Waste Management Limited: £3m + £21k costs
- Exolum Pipeline System Ltd: £2.3m + £157k costs
- Tarmac Aggregates Limited: £1.2m + £200k costs
- Network rail: £1.2m + £11.4k costs
- Creagh Concrete Products Limited: £1m + £47.5k costs
- FF9 Pictures Limited: £800k + £14.7k costs
- Kingsland Drinks Ltd of The Winery: £800k + £5.6k costs
- McCain Foods (G.B.) Limited: £700k + £6.5k costs
- Safran Seats GB Limited: £660k + £13.4k costs
Top 10 H&S breach fines of 2023 in detail
We have examined the UK's biggest health and safety fines over the past few years to help you understand how to avoid making the same simple mistakes.
1. Kier Infrastructure & Overseas Ltd: £4.4m + £87.7k costs
Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 Sections 2(1) and 3(1) and Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015
After its two incidents of its workers striking overhead powerlines on the M6 motorway, causing the cables to fall in the path of passing vehicles, the civil engineering company Kier has been fined over £4m. Both incidents occurred on overnight road works.
While clearing tarmac from the hard should and loading a truck with an excavator, the raised loading bucket struck and severed an overhead powerline. This 11-kilovolt overhead powerline landed in the motorway and in a nearby field.
After an investigation, the HSE found that the workers failed to inform the network provider after this first incident. This meant that the cable was re-energised a number of times while it was lying in the motorway. Due to poor planning by Kier, the vehicle used was unsuitable despite more suitable vehicles being available.
During the second incident, a crane struck an unmarked overhead cable, which resulted in a powerline getting hit and snapped by an oncoming lorry. The workers were unaware of the overhead hazards, and there was no task-specific risk assessment available for workers.
2. Valencia Waste Management Limited: £3m + £21k costs
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Section 3
Valencia Waste Management Limited has been fined £3 million by the HSE for the deaths of workers Michael Atkin and Mart Wheatley in separate incidents in 2019 and 2020. The HSE investigated both incidents, leading to the prosecution of the company.
Mart Wheatley, a 31-year-old agency worker, died in 2020 while using a lorry to lift two skips simultaneously at Dartmoor National Park Conservation Works depot in Bovey Tracey, Devon. The fine reflects the serious nature of the safety violations.
In this tragic incident, incompatible skips, differing in dimensions and positioned at an angle, led to a fatal accident when an individual attempted to rectify the situation on the lorry bed.
An investigation by the HSE revealed that the company neglected to conduct a proper risk assessment for skip operations, resulting in the absence of safe work systems and adequate training. Additionally, the investigation uncovered issues with skip maintenance and the absence of size labels on the skips.
Michael Atkin, a 63-year-old HGV driver from Wetherby, tragically lost his life during a waste collection operation at Valencia Waste Management Limited's Grendon Road site in Earls Barton, Northamptonshire, on October 10, 2019. Employed by RT Keedwell, Atkin was at the site alongside a Valencia Waste Management employee, who was using a forklift truck to load rows of waste paper bales onto Atkin's lorry.
3. Exolum Pipeline System Ltd: £2.3m + £157k costs
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Sections 2 (1) and 3(1)
Pipeline transportation company Exolum Pipeline System Ltd. has been fined £2.3m after its employees were exposed to the risk of serious injury and death. These safety breaches took place when workers were excavating a suspected pipeline leak in North Lincolnshire in 2018.
The risks from this excavation work were severe as there was the potential of petroleum in the pipeline forming a flammable cloud under high pressure. This could have extended several metres, causing those in the vicinity to be covered in a heavy spray of petrol and engulfed in petrol vapour.
Upon investigation, the HSE found that Exolum Pipeline System Ltd failed to identify and control the risks associated with conducting a pipeline repair.
"This incident had the potential to cause serious injury or death to multiple casualties and could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices."
4. Tarmac Aggregates Limited: £1.2m + £200k costs
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Section 2(1) and Section 3(1)
A Birmingham-based company, Tarmac Aggregates Limited, has been fined £1,2m following the death of a 26-year-old man, Luke Branston, during maintenance work at Mountsorrel Quarry in Leicestershire. The incident occurred in June 2017, when Branston became trapped between a conveyor and a feed hopper.
The HSE investigation revealed that the company neglected to isolate the feed hopper before the repair work, and the test button on the conveyor electrical panel was inoperative as it was not connected to the test circuit.
This critical issue had persisted for years prior to the incident, indicating a failure by Tarmac Aggregates Limited to address and rectify defects promptly. Additionally, the company was found lacking in providing a necessary visual and audible pre-start alarm for the conveyor.
5. Network Rail : £1.2m + £200k costs
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Section 2(1)
Network Rail has been fined £1.2 million in connection with the death of Kevin Mauger, a long-serving employee who was fatally crushed while performing maintenance work at a rail depot in Hampshire. Mauger, a 53-year-old grandfather of eight, was working on Network Rail's rail production line when a six-ton railway track crushed him inside a butt-welding machine.
The accident occurred in November 2020 at the Long Welded Rail Depot in Eastleigh. The HSE investigation revealed that Network Rail failed to establish a safe work system for maintenance on its rail production line and did not provide an adequate risk assessment for such maintenance tasks.
6. Creagh Concrete Products Limited: £1m + £47.5k costs
Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 Section 2 (1)
Creagh Concrete Products faced sentencing at Nottinghamshire Crown Court and was fined £1m for admitting its failure to ensure safe lifting operations and lacking proper training and information for its employees.
Stewart Ramsay, employed by Creagh Concrete Products in Nottingham, met a tragic end six years ago while attempting to resolve an issue during the unloading of a concrete building product.
The incident occurred at the Hoveringham site when Ramsay and his colleagues used a metal grab, which should not have been in operation. The fatal mishap transpired as the rope connected to the locking lever snapped, causing Ramsay to become trapped in the grab's jaws, resulting in fatal head injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive revealed that both the grab and the forklift truck used were in poor condition and should not have been in service at the time. The company neglected to maintain these work equipment pieces in an efficient state, in working order, or in good repair.
The equipment in use during the incident should not have been operational, and the employer's failure to follow their own health and safety systems was evident.
"Stewart’s death could easily have been prevented if his employer had acted to identify and manage the risks involved, and to put a safe system of work in place."
7. FF9 Pictures Limited: £800k + £14.7k costs
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Section 3(1)
A production company has been fined £800k and ordered to pay £14,7k in costs after a stunt performer, Joe Watts, suffered life-changing injuries during the filming of Fast and Furious 9: The Fast Saga.
The incident occurred in July 2019 at Warner Bros. studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, when Watts fell approximately 25 feet during a fight scene. His stunt vest's detached line caused the fall, resulting in a fractured skull and severe traumatic brain injury.
An investigation by the HSE revealed multiple safety failings by FF9 Pictures Limited. The company's risk assessment did not address potential issues like rope snap or link failure, lacked a double-check system for link engagement, and had no mechanism for inspecting the link for deformation or stretching between takes.
The manufacturer's guidelines prohibited using the link as personal protective equipment, emphasizing avoiding shock loading. Additionally, the required six-monthly inspections of harnesses were neglected, and the crash matting was not extended to mitigate consequences following set changes.
FF9 Pictures Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The fine and costs were imposed by Luton Magistrates' Court in November 2023.
8. Kingsland Drinks Ltd of The Winery: £800k + £5.6k
Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 Sections 2(1) and 3(1)
Wine and drinks supplier Kingsland Drinks Ltd. has been fined £800k after a visiting HGV driver was killed after being hit by a forklift in its Salford depot in 2020. John Fitzpatrick was waiting for his trailer to be loaded when he was hit and sustained serious head injuries. He later died in hospital.
The HSE found that the company had failed in several areas, including having a risk assessment that was outdated and not fit for purpose. There was no segregation of vehicles and pedestrians in the loading area, and visiting drivers were not given clear information regarding their safety.
9. McCain Foods (G.B.) Ltd: £700k + £6.5k costs
Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Section 2(1) & Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 Section 11(1)
A frozen food company in Lincolnshire has been fined £700k following an incident at its premises where an employee lost two fingers. Tom Matthews, now an advocate for health and safety, suffered serious injuries during a night shift at McCain Foods' site in Easton in September 2019.
While cleaning machinery, his left hand got caught in the rotary valve of the batter system, leading to the amputation of his index and middle fingers. An investigation by the HSE revealed that McCain Foods had failed to provide proper guarding on the machinery, conduct a sufficient risk assessment, and provide adequate health and safety training and supervision for its employees.
10. Safran Seats GB Limited: £660k + £13.4k costs
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Section 33(1)
A leading aircraft seat manufacturer, Safran Seats GB Limited, has been fined £660,000 following a serious incident at its South Wales site. The incident occurred in May 2020, during the company's efforts to vacate its premises in Cwmbran.
Kevin Lewis, a 62-year-old employee, sustained severe injuries, including multiple broken bones, a fractured skull, and a brain bleed, when he fell over seven feet through the roof of a spraying booth while dismantling it.
An investigation conducted by the HSE revealed that inadequate planning for work at height led to the absence of suitable equipment, and insufficient instruction and training were provided to the workers involved.
"Those in control of any work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working. They should also provide the necessary information, instruction, and training to their workers on the safe system of working."
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