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HSE News – Company owner jailed after worker falls to his death

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HSE News – Company owner jailed after worker falls to his death

In 2008, Mr K Joyce fell to his death from a cherry picker whilst he was dismantling a steel roofing structure in Newcastle. At the time, Mr Joyce was working from one cherry picker, whilst 2 others were working from another cherry picker and a crane in the same area. Mr Joyce and the other worker in the cherry picker were dismantling the structure, and the crane operator was lowering the steel beams to the floor. While removing a beam, one of the connected plate girders came loose and fell on to My Joyce’s cherry picker, causing it to overbalance and knocking Mr Joyce out of the basket.

After an extensive investigation by the HSE and the police, who were supported by the Crown Prosecution Service, it has been discovered that the horrific injuries suffered by Mr Joyce, and his tragic death, could have easily been avoided. The incident was an accumulation of a number of failures made by the contracting firm, NEMOC, its director, Mr C Taylor, and the subcontracting company that employed Mr Joyce, Mr A Turnbull, trading as A&H Site Line Boring and Machining.

Health And Safety At Work Act 1974

Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that when an offence is committed under any of the relevant statutory provisions by a company or organisation, and it is proven to have been committed with the consent of, involvement of, or as a result of any neglect by a director, manager, or person in any such capacity, he as well as the ‘body corporate’ shall be guilty of that offence and liable for punishment accordingly.

As a result, both Mr Turnbull and Mr Taylor were held responsible for their firms’ failings in respect of:

Section 2 (1) – General duties of employers to their employees:

It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

Section 3 (1) – General duties of employers and self-employed to persons other than their employees:

It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.

Findings

The investigation found that NEMOC were guilty of offences under Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, as they had subcontracted to Mr Turnbull without checking his competence and as a result, had failed to protect the safety of its employees and any sub-contracted workers. By the time the investigation reached its conclusion, the company had gone into liquidation so they were fined just £1 for each offence, but the company director, Mr Taylor, was fined £30,000 plus £50,000 costs by virtue of Section 37.

Mr Turnbull was found to have failed to implement a safe working system and he pleaded guilty of breaches under Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and was also prosecuted by virtue of Section 37. His breaches however were so severe that he was also found guilty of the criminal offence of gross negligence manslaughter and sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Health and Safety is an essential part of any working practice, and this is just one of many cases that illustrates that, although nationally organisations and employers are taking the health and safety of their workers seriously, there are still many individuals who do not. But as with this case, negligent or wilfully careless owners, employers or managers can expect the Police, the HSE, and the Crown Prosecution Service to work in partnership to ensure any offenders are brought to justice. For more information on health and safety training, please contact HST on 0191 6440 332

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