10 Highest UK Health & Safety Fines of 2023

Posted by

Emmeline de Chazal

on 11 Apr 2023

The first quarter of the year has seen millions in health and safety fines handed out. We examine the largest penalties of 2023 thus far.

health and safety

It's only been a quarter of a year, and 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. With the majority of the year yet to unfold, this is concerning.

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 2021/22, according to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Free Workplace  Accidents Training Presentation

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 2023

  1. Kier Infrastructure and Overseas Ltd: £4.4m + £87.7k costs
  2. Exolum Pipeline System Ltd: £2.3m + £157k costs
  3. Kingsland Drinks Ltd of The Winery: £800k + £5.6k
  4. McLaren: £650k + £110.1k costs
  5. Kelkay Ltd: £600k + £20.8k costs
  6. Le Maitre Ltd: £500k +£20.7k costs
  7. Bupa Care Homes: £400k + £3.2k costs
  8. Industrial Companies: £380k + £8.5k costs
  9. Newcastle City Council: £280k + £8k costs
  10. British Airways Maintenance Cardiff Ltd: £230k + £21.6k 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 kilovolts 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 snapping by an oncoming lorry. The workers were unaware of the overhead hazards and there was no task-specific risk assessment available for workers.

2. 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."

- Mark Leadbetter, inspector, HSE

Health & Safety Compliance Roadmap

3. 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.

4. McLaren: £650k + £110.1k costs

Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 Sections 2(1) and 3(1)

Following the death of an inspector fell to his death, the supercar manufacturer, McLaren, has been fined £650k. David Oldman worked for Zurich Management Services Limited and was carrying out a structural inspection of McLaren's Paddock Brand Centre when the incident occurred in 2016. 

Oldman fell from one of the upper floors and later died in the hospital of his injuries. The HSE found that the company failed to properly assess the risks and implement measures to prevent workers from falling from height at their Paddock Brand Centre.

8 Steps to Safer Lifting & Handling

5. Kelkay Ltd: £600k + £20.8k costs

Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 2(1)

An East Yorkshire garden landscaping company, Kelkay Ltd., has been fined £600k following the death of an employee who was trapped under a moving lorry. In 2018, Brian White was operating a forklift truck in Pollington when the lorry he was loading was moved by the driver. This resulted in the forklift being pulled over and him getting trapped underneath. He was fatally injured in the process.

After an investigation by the HSE, it was found that Kelkay Ltd's risk assessment did not take into account the possibility of lorries moving whilst being loaded. Furthermore, there were inadequate systems in place to ensure vehicles were not moved during loading.

6. Le Maitre Ltd: £500k +£20.7k costs

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Section 2(1) 

Following a fatal explosion, Peterborough company, Le Maitre Ltd, has been fined £500k. Brendan Ledgister was making a pyrotechnic composition when one of the products caught alight and caused a significant explosion. He sustained serious burns and died in the hospital the following day.

The HSE found that the system of work for working with explosive materials was not safe. Upon investigation, it was determined that the tools he was working with were unsuitable and the facility was not of an appropriate standard. Furthermore, the company failed to provide the young worker with proper training, and he was not supervised appropriately.

Le Maitre Ltd, now known as LM 140121 Ltd, has been involved in previous incidents where workers were killed in 1990 and 1988.

Use RegTech for RIDDOR

7. Bupa Care Homes: £400k + £3.2k costs

Section 3(1) & Section 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

Bupa Care Homes (CFHCare) has been on the receiving end of a £400k fine, £3.2k costs and a victim surcharge after an eight-year-old girl sustained serious injuries after a tree fell on her.

The girl was jogging with her father on the pavement outside the entrance to the care home when a tree fell on her. She suffered severe crush injuries and her leg had to be amputated.

An investigation by the HSE found that CFHCare had failed to implement a strategy to manage trees, including an adequate risk assessment, proactive surveys, inspections and monitoring of trees to identify remedial work needing to be done to prevent the risk of tree failing.

8. Industrial Companies: £380k + £8.5k costs

Regulation 13(1) of Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and Regulation 9 (2) of the Work at Height Regulations 

After a worker fell through the roof of a retail unit in Milton Keynes, two companies have been fined a total of £380k. Following the fall of more than 20 feet, the worker landed on the floor and broke his ankle.

Specialist roofing contractor, Brackley Industrial Maintenance Ltd, was contracted by STP Construction Ltd to do roofing works.

An investigation conducted by the HSE found that STP Construction Ltd failed to plan effective access arrangements to and on the roof, which resulted in workers having to pass fragile materials before making use of the fall arrest system.

Further investigation revealed that Brackley Industrial Maintenance Ltd didn't ensure the provision and the use of physical means to prevent or arrest falls. STP Construction Ltd and Brackley Industrial Maintenance Ltd were fined £320k and £68k, respectively, and each was ordered to pay costs of £8 538.

Fire Safety in the Workplace

9. Newcastle City Council: £280k + £8k costs

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Section 3(1)

Following the death of six-year-old Ellas Henderson, the Newcastle City Council has been fined £280k.  The girl was playing with friends at Gosforth Park First School in Newcastle upon Tyne in 2020 when a decaying willow tree collapsed.

After investigation, the HSE found that the tree was in a poor condition, and the Newcastle City Council had failed to identify the extent of the decay or to manage the risk the decaying tree posed.

10. British Airways Maintenance Cardiff Ltd: £230k + £21.6k

The company that maintains British Airways planes has been fined £230k following a work falling from height during an inspection of aircraft wings. British Airways Maintenance Cardiff Ltd employee, Iain Mawson, was placed in an induced coma after falling through the hap in the guard rail of the docking platform.

He suffered serious injuries, including skull fractures, a brain haemorrhage, and fractures to his ribs, scapula, vertebrae and collarbone. Mawson has not been able to return to work since the accident.

The HSE found that the company had not adequately analysed the risks. They didn't avoid removing the guardrail safety barriers or ensuring that the safety barriers were replaced.

Workplace Accidents Training Presentation

Want to learn more about Health & Safety?

We’ve created a comprehensive Health & Safety roadmap to help you navigate the compliance landscape, supported by e-learning in our Compliance Essentials Library.

We also have 100+ free compliance training aids, including assessments, best practice guides, checklists, desk aids, eBooks, games, posters, training presentations and even e-learning modules!

Finally, the SkillcastConnect community provides a unique opportunity to network with other compliance professionals in a vendor-free environment, priority access to our free online learning portal and other exclusive benefits.

Compliance Bulletin

Compliance Bulletin

Our monthly email provides best practices, expert opinions, industry insights, news and key trends in regulatory compliance training, digital learning, EdTech and RegTech.