April 2016 – In the News

The 2016 Health and Safety Sentencing Guidelines: How Have Things Changed for Companies?

On 1 February 2016, the new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences came into force. They direct the courts to consider the sentencing of offending organisations by way of a step-by-step approach, primarily examining culpability, the seriousness of harm risked and the likelihood of harm, which are divided into a number of different levels to reflect the scale within each category. In light of a number of preceding Court of Appeal judgments expressing the same view, the guidelines then require an assessment of turnover in order to set a starting point for a fine that is intended “to bring the message home to the directors and shareholders of offending organisations”, as stated by the Judge in the environmental prosecution of Thames Water. The majority of the other sentencing steps relate to the consideration of increasing or decreasing the level of fine according to a range of factors. There are similar guidelines for the sentencing individuals for health and safety offences, with a stronger focus on the risk of a custodial sentence for those found guilty of serious breaches.

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The Growing Issue of Musculoskeletal Disorders

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are on the rise despite a wealth of training and information being readily accessible, argues Liz Burton, High Speed Training.

Despite the fact that information and training on preventing chronic injuries is readily accessible nowadays, year after year we are still seeing a disconcerting rise in cases of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Although not life threatening, both episodic and chronic cases significantly reduce a person’s quality of life, and currently affect a sizeable portion of the population. According to the HSE, the total number of work-related musculoskeletal disorder cases in 2014/15 was 553,000 and the number of new cases was 169,000.

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Caffè Nero Cleared of Breaches After Woman Swallows Wire

Caffè Nero has been cleared of four counts of breaching food hygiene regulations by a judge at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court, after a woman swallowed an inch long metal bristle when eating a panini and was forced to have emergency surgery.

Katherine Willans, 34, was eating a Panini in the Putney High Street branch of the coffee chain when the bristle, from a wire brush, became lodged in her throat. Ms Willans was ill for three days before being rushed to hospital on 3 August, 2014, where doctors discovered the bristle in her throat as she underwent surgery.

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Work safety: Employee Dis-Engagement or Poor Workplace Culture?

According to Vardi and Winer (1996), workplace culture is “widely regarded as a construct denoting the extent to which members share core organizational values” (Vardi & Wiener, 1996, p. 160). In 2003, Boucaut described organisational culture as a potential barrier to resolving face-to-face workplace challenges; these can include workplace bullying, harassment and work safety. In large organisations, culture is expressed through explicit and implicit rules, both of which are recognised as key elements that can enhance, or reduce, employee engagement.

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Drainage Contractor Sent to Prison for Fatal Trench Collapse

A man contracted to lay drainage pipes in a field has been sent to prison after one of his crew was killed in a trench collapse. Swansea Magistrates’ Court heard how William Ryan Evans was contracted to construct a drainage field comprising of pipes laid at the bottom of deep trenches. Evans employed two workers and a subcontractor excavator to undertake the work at Longstone Farm, in Pembrokeshire.

On 26th June 2012, 54-year-old Hywel Glyndwr Richards clambered into the trench to remove a clump of soil that had fallen in. However, the trench collapsed and buried him. He died at the scene. An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the work was not planned appropriately and there was no suitable risk assessment.

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Man Jailed for Six Years Following Fatal Fall

One man has been jailed for six years and another for eight months after two incidents on the same day left one man dead and another with life-changing injuries, after falls from a roof they were repairing.

Allan Thomson was jailed for six years and fined £400,000 after he and his company Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd were found guilty of safety breaches. Michael Smith and his company C. Smith and Sons (Rochdale) Ltd were also found guilty. Mr Smith was jailed for eight months and fined £90,000.

It was heard in court how, on 21 January 2014, despite a near miss at height the previous day, four men began dismantling the roof of a building, which was made up of steel corrugated sheets with interspersed plastic skylights, which had deteriorated over time and had subsequently been covered with corrugated steel sheets in a bid to repair the damage.

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