Suspended Sentence for Company Directors

Monday, February 13, 2017


SUMMARY

Both owners of Kidderminster based fencing firm, Hoo Farm Fencing, have been given suspended sentences after a worker was hit by timber posts and frames which fell from a fork lift truck.

BACKGROUND

The Injured Party, Forty-nine year old Raymond Lainsbury, suffered injuries that still require regular physiotherapy sessions following the incident on 12 February 2016.

PROSECUTION CASE

• The case was heard at Worcester Magistrates’ Court.
• The HSE outlined that Hoo Farm Fencing’s method of working was unsuitable for the task they were carrying out at the time of the incident.
• Essentially, Mr Lainsbury was helping to dip timber posts and frames in preservative, when they fell from the metal frame on the fork lift truck, striking him.

BREACHES

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company had not been using suitable equipment for the task:
• Firstly, the operator had not been properly trained to operate a fork lift truck and therefore did not have the requisite appreciation of the dangers involved in using the vehicle in an unsafe way.
• The company was also prosecuted for not having the fork lift truck in question thoroughly examined in accordance with the relevant LOLER regulations.

PLEAS

The Defendants, Maurice James Blackford of Minster Road, Stourport, Kidderminster pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Susan Hawthorne of Blackthorne House, Hartlebury Road pled guilty to the same breach.

SENTENCE

Both Defendants were sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment suspended for two years and fined £10,000 each. Full Prosecution costs of £4,318 were split between the two defendants.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Tariq Khan said;

“The seriousness of the safety failings could have resulted in much more severe injuries to Mr Lainsbury who was lucky to walk away from this incident.”

He concluded by saying that:

“This case highlights the importance of maintaining proper safety practices and also all duty holders will be held accountable for failing to do so.”

SAFETY SMART COMMENT:

• This case demonstrates how the courts are taking serious breaches such as in this matter, more seriously since the introduction of the new far harsher sentencing regime for health and safety offences that commenced last February 2016.

• The fact that the HSE prosecuted not only the company but also two individuals whom it considered to have personal responsibility in this matter and then gave them both custodial sentences, albeit suspended, exemplifies that directors and senior managers are more and more frequently being held to account when serious accidents occur.

• The HSE will not tolerate flagrant breaches of duty holders’ responsibilities, particularly where work equipment is being used in an inappropriate and unsafe manner and will prosecute in accordance with their Enforcement Management Model.

• All employers should be aware that fork lift trucks require that drivers are properly trained up to the requisite standard by way of a recognized qualification and ensure that all drivers, however minor their task, have the necessary ticket.

• The HSE will also prosecute any duty holder who owns or leases work equipment and then fails to properly maintain it, as this can and often does lead to serious repercussions including serious injury to members of staff, visitors and members of the public.

• All work equipment should be listed on a diarized schedule which sets out the company’s essential maintenance regime to ensure that legally required maintenance work isn’t overlooked, however small the company. Safety Smart can help with setting up maintenance programmes if required.

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