Sentencing guidelines - The impact so far

Published: 11 Apr 2016

It's just a little over one month since the inception of the new sentencing guidelines, and already the impact is starting to be felt. Here we analyse two separate health and safety prosecutions, the fines imposed and lessons that could be learnt to avoid a re occurrence.

In the first case study, supermarket chain Aldi and contractors Wilkinson Maintenance have been fined after an unsecured smoking shelter was blown by the wind, injuring an employee. Injuries sustained included soft-tissue injuries to the employees back and both arms.

In court it was heard how Wilkinson Maintenance had moved the metal and perspex smoking shelter to install an emergency exit at the Aldi supermarket site. Following the work the shelter was left unsecured, Aldi presumed Wilkinson would take care of it, while Wilkinson believed it was Aldi’s responsibility. The result was an avoidable accident resulting in a £100,000 fine for Aldi.

In the second case study, a Hemp producing plant in Wales was prosecuted for breaches in health and safety law after an anonymous tip off. Natural Insulation Ltd failed to conduct an adequate risk assessment for the processing of hemp. They also failed to adequately guard the machinery. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the concerns raised anonymously found that the COSHH assessment was not suitable and sufficient. The resulting fine was £90,000.

From these two cases, the following key considerations were noted:

  1. Poor communication between subcontractor and client can result in major oversights which can have serious consequences.
  2. Loose fixtures such as the smoking shelter in question need to be made secured or stored safely at the first instance to avoid exposure to a hazard.
  3. In the second case study it is important to note that although no actual harm occurred, the offence was due to a failure to manage the risk.
  4. The necessary protective guarding needs to be made available for all dangerous machinery.
  5. All dangerous activities must be risk assessed with all hazards identified and control measures put in place to have them eliminated or minimised to an acceptable level.
  6. Risk assessments must be completed by a competent person with reviews to be conducted on a regular basis or when changes occur in the operation which may affect safety.
  7. All chemicals must also be COSHH assessed, hazards identified, control measures put in place and the correct personal protective equipment to be worn.

If the correct protocols had been followed, both the aforementioned companies would have limited themselves to the exposure to prosecution.

For further information regarding the individual cases, please see the following