On 1st February 2016 the new Guidelines issued by the Sentencing Guideline’s Council for health and safety cases were introduced. Since then, a handful of cases have been sentenced at the crown court. One such example is the fatal accident that occurred on 7th June 2013 when Ashley Morris, who was working for Rainbow Waste Management, suffered fatal injuries when the bucket of a loading shovel that he was operating crushed him.
At the inquest in 2014 a conclusion of accidental death was reached by the jury. They heard how the death was caused by Mr Morris being trapped between the arm of the bucket.
The company provides wheeled bins and skip hire services in Derbyshire. They pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) Health and Safety Etc Act 1974 and at Derby Crown Court the company was sentenced in February 2016 to a fine of £ 136,000 and ordered to pay costs of £64,770, totalling £200,770. The Health and Safety Executive at the sentencing hearing informed the court that in the 10 days prior to the incident, they had seen on CCTV evidence over 200 unsafe working practices, including dangerous operations of mechanical equipment and inadequate separation of pedestrians, workers and vehicles.
Safety Smart Comment
This case demonstrates a substantial increase in fine level for even very small, micro companies for fatal accidents under the new sentencing regime. The company was deemed a micro company, which under the sentencing guidelines, meant that the starting point for the fine was £160,000 with a sentencing range of £100,000 - £250,000. This was because after hearing the evidence, the Judge concluded that the firm’s culpability for the fatal accident was “high” out of all the available culpability categories and that it fell within the most serious category harm level one out of four as it involved a fatal accident.
The Judge in his sentencing remarks made it clear that the guidance will be applied to all companies, irrespective of turnover and size, not just the largest corporations. He gave the company six years to pay the fine due to their limited means and ordered that the company paid all the costs incurred by the HSE.
He went on to say:
“Given that the objective of sentencing is to bring home the seriousness of the offence and impose a significant financial penalty…under the new sentencing guidelines, this fine will clearly do so.”
SafetySmart will continue to report on health and safety sentencing cases month on month, so that we can give up to date analysis of what to expect under the new sentencing tariff when companies are prosecuted for health and safety offences.
Health and Safety Defence Solicitor