Christine Henson and Francesca Lewington provide an update on Health and Safety fines.
Defendants in Health & Safety and related prosecutions usually want to know what sort of fine they are looking at in the event of conviction. The answers can be difficult to provide as there are not firm guidelines or “brackets” in non-fatal cases, only the criteria established in R v F Howe & Son (Engineers) Ltd  2 All E.R. 249
Below is a round up of some recent fines in non-fatal cases. Further sentencing updates will be provided from time to time.
- R v Draper  EWCA Crim 2786 – Fire Safety – Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – D was landlord of a house divided into flats. The front doors did not comply with requirements relating to fire resistance laid down by art 8 (1) of the Order. There was a fire in the house. No one was hurt. 3 counts relating to the absence of self closing devices on front doors and one relating to the failure to maintain a fire extinguisher.
No aggravating features – D had not deliberately profited from breaches, no failure to heed warnings, good safety record, good character, he had taken remedial steps following the fire. Guilty pleas.
Fines of £135,000 in total upheld by the Court of Appeal.
The deficiencies had caused very considerable risk to occupants and it was fortunate that no one was hurt. They were serious offences.
- SCOTTISH REPORTED CASE: Dundee Cold Stores v HM Advocate  HCJAC 102 – S 2 and s 3 HSWA 1974 – A worker fell through a roof light to his severe injury when carrying out subcontract work.
Fines of £135,000 and £65,000 following guilty pleas by three companies reduced on appeal to £50,000 and £44,000 – Two of the defendant companies each fined £50,000 and the third fined £44,000.
The court took into account English sentencing guidelines including R v Howe.
“The exercise a sentencing judge had to carry out in such a case involved assessing the seriousness of the breaches themselves to give the court a provisional view of the kind of penalty which might be appropriate, an examination of all the aggravating and mitigating factors, and finally to have particular regard to the financial position of the accused”.
The lower court had been “unduly distracted” by the injuries sustained and elevated the culpability to a higher level than justified.
THEME: it is the seriousness of the breaches that is most important, and not the level of injury caused (or indeed whether any injury has been caused).
Cases sentenced in September 2012:
- Gas leak – Unoccupied residential premises due to inadvertent drilling of a hole in a plastic main during works. No injury to persons or damage to property, however high risk of both as half a tonne of gas had escaped. This was “enough to result in an explosion had it been ignited. It was extremely fortunate that the owners were away at the time”. Large company involved. Charge: s 3 (1) HSWA 1974. Guilty plea in Magistrates Court. Fine: £17,500 plus £8,192 Costs.
- Broken forearm caused to factory worker – caused by a gap in the production line at an ice cream factory and inadequate guarding. Worker put his hand through the gap to remove some lids; his arm became entangled and drawn into the dangerous moving part of the machine which was inadequately guarded. Charges: Regulation 11 (1) PUWER 1998, Regulation 3 (1) Management of Health and Safety at Work Act. Guilty plea in Magistrates Court. Fine: £10,000 with £3,294 Cost.
- Severed finger due to inadequately guarded machine – Worker at a food manufacturing factory reached into a machine and came into contact with heated clamping jaws that crimp and seal plastic bags. Fixed guards and interlocks had been installed but one of the fixed guards was not properly secured and was effectively useless. Charge: Regulation 11 (1). PUWER 1998. Guilty plea in the Magistrates Court. Fine: £2,000 plus £2,348 costs.