Company Director prosecuted after 6m fall by employee

Please read below. It is notable in that a Director was personally prosecuted under Section 37 to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Graham Dyson, the director of Globalforce Contracts Limited, has been sentenced after an employee fell from a roof and sustained life-threatening injuries. Chelmsford Magistrates Court heard how, on 7 April 2017, Mr Slawomir Miller, an employee of Globalforce Contracts Limited, was carrying out roof repairs in Harlow, Essex when he fell six metres through a fragile rooflight. Mr Miller landed on the concrete floor below and received multiple fractures to his vertebrae, ribs, elbow, wrist and sacral bones. He subsequently spent eight weeks in hospital.

An investigation by the HSE found that Mr Dyson had failed to properly plan the work or provide adequate fall protection to his employees. Mr Miller had never carried out roofwork before; but he was instructed to access the roof via a scissor lift, which he was not trained to use. Mr Dyson allowed Mr Miller to work without supervision, undertaking activities that necessitated walking across a fragile roof composed of asbestos cement sheeting.

Mr Graham Dyson, of Bulphan, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, by virtue of S37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 See Special Note below). He was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay costs of £6,848.60 and a victim surcharge of £85.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Adam Hills said “This incident could so easily have been prevented. Work at height on asbestos cement roofing is dangerous and requires adequate planning, organisation, training and equipment.” The Inspector went on to say; “The Director was aware of the need to access and repair the roof. He could have provided work at height training and equipment to workers, or simply contracted the task out to a professional roofing company. Directors should be aware that they may be held personally accountable if they endanger the lives of their employees.”

SPECIAL NOTE: Section 37 of the Act is strongly worded, referring to offences which are committed with the consent of, or are due to the neglect of an officer of the company such as a director, manager or secretary. Clearly, a judgement that is reasonable at the time but is later proved to be incorrect is not the same as a hurried, ill-judged decision made in order to save time. Any person who accept the position with attributable health and safety responsibilities (i.e. a manager with delegated Health & Safety functions) will be expected by their employer and by the enforcing inspector to make correct decisions. This assumes, of course, that they have been given sufficient training, that the training has been validated and that they have been given sufficient time and facilities to undertake their job properly.

The most likely circumstance where the question of personal prosecution of a manager could arise is when an offence committed by his or her employer that is attributable to the neglect of the same manager.

Personal responsibility on the part of managers will be questioned if an accident occurs or enforcement action is taken in circumstances where their acts or omissions may have contributed towards any accident. If this occurs; managers will need to demonstrate that they made decisions that were reasonable for a person with their authority and expertise. Managers will also need to demonstrate that they did all that they reasonably could to ensure that their instructions etc. were actioned. In order to have the maximum impact on working conditions, thereby reducing accidents and the possibility of enforcement action, individual managers must ensure that their instructions etc. are well documented. Such actions will not only improve safety standards and achieve a higher standard of compliance with legislation, but will also reduce the possibility of a personal prosecution against the manager concerned.

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Authors: Ernie Taylor

Published: 22 Mar 2019


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