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Health and Safety Sentencing Guidelines: One Year On

01 May 2017

In last month’s article we looked at the impact of the new sentencing guidelines for health and safety breaches one year on from their introduction in February 2016.

We discussed how trends in fines imposed since the new regime came into operation revealed that nineteen companies had so far been levied with individual fines of a million pounds or more.

Adding to this tally, another fine of £1 million has very recently been handed out to furniture giant DFS after a worker suffered serious head and neck injuries when he was struck by a furniture component at one of the company’s upholstery manufacturing sites.

Failure to Manage Risks

The worker was knocked unconscious having been struck by the unsecured wooden component whilst unloading wooden furniture frames. The incident, which occurred in July 2015, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which found that DFS had failed to sufficiently manage the risks of heavy loads being moved between its manufacturing sites. The company was also found to have failed to adequately supervise the work being undertaken and a number of ‘near misses’ from unsecured loads had been reported.

DFS Trading Limited was prosecuted under the new HSE sentencing guidelines. Following a guilty plea, a fine of £1 million was imposed plus £15,099 in costs. The fine fell in line with the company’s turnover which is one of the criteria now followed by the courts, together with culpability, the seriousness of the offence, mitigating and aggravating factors and the risk of serious harm, whether or not any harm was actually caused.

Mitigating Factors

In this case, the fact that several near misses had come to light, despite them not having led to an incident, would certainly have been taken into consideration.

In a statement, DFS said that they worked in complete cooperation with the HSE as the investigation progressed and that the improvements they made as a result were recognised by them and the district judge. Their co-operation with the investigation would have been considered as a mitigating factor by the prosecution.

The employee who suffered the injuries is now thankfully back at work, but the situation could of course have been very different.

Why Training is Imperative

The movement of loads is an area in which tailored training is imperative, as are site-specific risk assessments. With fines now typically exceeding £1 million, and the threat of prison sentences also very real, company directors are strongly urged to ensure this area of their operations is adequately covered.

At Alistair Bromhead Limited, we offer a variety of manual handling training courses across the UK, both for handlers themselves and for trainers. Many organisations find it a worthwhile investment to install their own in-house trainers so that all employees have access to relevant training, refresher training and ongoing advice and support on tap. We are able to provide training to City & Guilds accredited status courtesy of our highly experienced instructors who are prepared to work closely with your organisation to make sure every aspect of the training is individually tailored to your particular working situation. Courses are practical, interactive and can be held onsite to ensure absolute relevance.

With such serious implications for those in breach of health and safety regulations, there really are no two ways about it: manual handling training is an absolute must.

To learn more about the courses offered by Alistair Bromhead Limited, please get in touch.

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