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Health and safety: the thin line between us and them

by Marrick on September 17, 2012

hse1The “Wingnuts” have almost universally applauded  the scrapping of regular health and safety inspections for all but the most high-risk businesses. From April 2013, only businesses operating in "higher risk" areas such as construction, or those which have experienced a recent health and safety incident or have a track record of poor performance, will be subject to inspections from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or local authorities.

In addition, businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if anyone making a claim can show that a business acted negligently. The Government said that it will introduce legislation next month to change the current ##Q##strict liability##Q## regime under which businesses can automatically be liable for damages even where they were not at fault.

What this means is that if you want to make a claim, then the business does not have to prove they weren’t negligent, but you have to prove that they were.


Every week I get an email from the H&S Executive, which contains details of various prosecutions made by them against people who have evaded their H&S responsibilities. Here’s a sample from this week:

  • The owners of a West Yorkshire care home have been told to pay £183,000 in fines and costs after a frail 93 year-old widow died because established safety measures were neglected. Mrs Elsie Beals asphyxiated after becoming trapped in the gap between her mattress and incorrectly-fitted bed safety rails.
  • A Shropshire firm, which hires out equipment for working safely at height, has been fined after a worker suffered multiple injuries when he fell from a cherry picker. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted UK Platforms Ltd following the incident at the company##Q##s depot in Halesfield, Telford.
  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning the waste and recycling industry to renew efforts to improve worker safety, following a spate of deaths over the summer. Nine lives were lost in separate incidents in just 12 weeks between June 2012 and September 2012. Half of the deaths occurred in skip hire and waste transfer premises.
  • A worker lost a finger when it was crushed in machinery as safety procedures were ignored at a recycling centre in Wales. GLJ Recycling Ltd appeared before Caerphilly Magistrates Court in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive and were fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs for breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.
  • One in every five of the construction sites visited by inspectors in South Cumbria last week failed safety checks. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out two days of intensive inspections in South Lakeland and Barrow on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 September, and found eight of the 40 sites visited failed to meet the legally required standards for health and safety.
  • The director of a Bromley firm has given a suspended jail sentence after removing asbestos without a licence and deceiving the householders by providing a doctored air test saying the room was safe to re-enter. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the circumstances of the incident and brought the prosecution against Mr Peter Horrey under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
  • A property restoration and development company has been fined after workers and the public were exposed to asbestos in a Lincolnshire town. J Hodgson and Sons Ltd, of Carre Street, Sleaford, disturbed asbestos insulating board during refurbishment work at the former White Hart pub in Southgate in the town between March and June 2011.
  • A Bridgend firm has been sentenced for safety failings after a teenage worker plunged nearly six metres through a fragile roof at a children##Q##s activity centre. Joshua Harry, 18, from Swansea, escaped with severe bruising to his back following the incident at Cantref Adventure Farm, Brecon, on 28 February 2012. He was one of a team of employees of WDS Green Energy Ltd installing solar panels at the centre.
  • A Leicestershire house builder has been fined after two self-employed bricklayers fell more than two metres from a scaffold. Darren Bird and James Allies were contracted to help build houses at a small development in Normanton, near Bottesford, by Cairns Heritage Homes No2 Limited.
  • A Glasgow firm has been fined after an employee lost a finger and seriously injured his hand and arm when they became caught in machinery. Daniel Campbell, 29, was working for Robert Cullen Limited, a manufacturer of corrugated cartons and moulded pulp products, at its premises in Dawsholm Avenue, when the incident happened on 5 July 2010.
  • A manufacturer of steel building materials has been fined for safety failings after an employee sustained a serious hand injury on a poorly guarded machine in Norfolk. Antonio Pires, aged 63, from Watton, was operating a power press to form sheet metal at Worldwide Steels Limited, trading as Sabrefix, in the town when the incident occurred on 18 May last year.
  • A Preston steel firm has been sentenced after one of its employees suffered serious internal injuries when he became trapped in an industrial drilling machine. Joseph Spencer narrowly avoided being paralysed when a rotating drill passed through his overalls and jeans, and became lodged close to his spine.
  • A Coventry engineering firm has been fined after an employee was injured on an unguarded machine. The employee, who has asked not to be named, was making a cut in a component on a horizontal borer at MNB Precision Ltd on 20 May 2011 but as he reached over to check the cut, his sleeve came into contact with the rotating part. He was thrown over the top and suspended upside down when his belt caught on the component.
  • An Aberdeenshire haulage firm has been fined after a driver was severely injured when he was knocked to the ground and run over by a tractor unit of a Heavy Goods Vehicle. Ian Mackie, 43, from Turriff, was one of a team of drivers who worked for R & J Milne Limited operating out of its haulage yard in Norwood, Ardmiddle, Turriff.
  • Council employees, agency workers and passers-by narrowly avoided electrocution or injury on two separate occasions when vehicles collecting recycled material struck overhead power lines, a court heard today. On both occasions workers for Powys County Council were using kerb side collection vehicles that tip in order to empty material into the body of the lorries. The incidents occurred when the vehicles struck low voltage lines during tipping and sent them crashing to the ground.
  • A Stoke firm, which designs and manufactures trailers for commercial vehicles, has been sentenced after a worker was seriously injured when he was crushed underneath a lorry when the tuck-away tail-lift closed on him. Mark Dimmock, 28, from Stoke-on-Trent, had only been working for Don-Bur (Bodies & Trailers) Ltd for one week at the company##Q##s site on Mossfield Road, when the incident happened on 28 June last year.
  • A Hertfordshire concrete pumping company has been fined after members of the public and a police car were sprayed with concrete when a delivery pipe ruptured. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted London Concrete Pumping Limited over poorly maintained equipment leading to the incident on 24 May 2011.

THAT, is just one week’s worth of H&S reports. Imagine what it will be like once we get rid of inspections and inevitably standards fall. Knowing their can be a snap inspection, or even a regular one focuses the mind of employers and makes them heed legislation that is there for the protection of their staff.

This is a huge mistake by the Coalition. As H&S accidents rise, the finger of blame will be firmly pointed at this decision. Always assuming it hasn’t been cut off.


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