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HCR Law Events

26 March 2021

£1m fine imposed for health and safety failures

A £1m fine imposed on Drayton Manor Park for health and safety failings, which led to the death of an 11-year-old girl who drowned when she fell off a raft on a ride, should alert organisations to the critical importance of carrying out “suitable and sufficient” risk assessments.

The fine was imposed by Mr Justice Spencer sitting at the Stafford Crown Court for a contravention of S3(1) Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. This duty requires employers to conduct their undertakings in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in their employment are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

The young girl, who was at the Park on a school trip on 9 May 2017, was thrown from a raft on the Splash Canyon water ride and drowned in attempting to get out of the water.

It was found that the Park’s risk assessment did not properly assess or address the risk of passengers being thrown from the raft, despite similar incidents, nor was there a system in place for rescuing anyone who fell in the water.

The incident was foreseeable and therefore entirely preventable.

Risk assessments must be at the heart of your safety management system because Reg 3 Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 makes it a legal requirement for every employer to make a “suitable and sufficient” assessment of:

  • the risks to the health and safety of employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work
  • the risks to the health and safety of persons not in their employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by them of their undertaking.

An effective risk assessment amounts to a critical examination of what could have the potential to cause harm, to employees and others, and must identify the steps that will be necessary to eliminate or control any hazard.

Findings should be recorded (and must be if you employ more than five people) and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that the control measures are still relevant, particularly where new risks have emerged, either because they were not previously identified or have been created through e.g. adaptations.

The review process is critical and yet so often overlooked. There is no legal time frame for conducting a review, it is a matter that is left entirely to the discretion of the duty holder. After the risk assessment document is completed, set a date for its first review.

Ask yourself:

  • have the risks changed in any way?
  • Are the control measures working?
  • What has changed and how will any new risks be controlled?

Talk to those who are likely to be affected by the risks for their views. Make sure that any changes are properly recorded and communicated so that anyone likely to be affected is made aware of the risks and control measures. Having completed the first review, set a date for the second review and so on. As the HSE always point out, the risk assessment is a living document and should treated as such.

These simple steps should ensure you avoid preventable accidents and very large fines.

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About the Author
Jonathan Edwards, Partner

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