Kate Oldfield – Managing Partner and Head of Personal Injury – on why health and safety should remain front and centre for employers.

The last year has been a struggle for many businesses.  It has been a difficult balancing act to keep companies going, often coping with just a skeleton staff.  Despite this, health and safety should still be at the forefront of business owners’ minds, as the sentencing possibilities are potentially huge, including unlimited fines and/or a period of imprisonment not exceeding two years. A recent case is a sore reminder that we have a duty to ensure the health and welfare at work of all our employees.

On 11th February 2019 a sole trader was prosecuted under the health and safety rules at Manchester Magistrates Court.  The sole trader operated a construction, demolition, waste and recycling business.  One of his workers sustained a serious crush injury after being struck from behind by a 13.5 tonne excavator.  The injuries were devastating, life changing, and the employee is currently waiting a below the knee amputation of his left leg.

When dealing with a small business it is a real risk that the individual owner, director or manager will be prosecuted individually rather than the company.  In this particular case, the sole trader was found to have no safe system of work in place to segregate pedestrians and vehicles and narrowly escaped being sent to prison.  He was sentenced to 17 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay costs of £9,000.

Clearly this injury was preventable, and the sentence was avoidable.  It is a timely reminder that we should all, despite the current trading difficulties, have effective control measures in place to minimise these risks.

Health and safety at the end of the day is common sense.  We all know the risks involved in working in our own work environments.  Simple plans can easily be put in place to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our employees and all visitors.

If you would like to discuss any issues raised by this article, please contact Kate Oldfield on 0161 832 3304. For more information about Kate and her work, please click HERE.

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