Lessons to be learned from big Health and Safety fine issued

12th March 2021

This week the Health & Safety Executive published details of a significant fine that was imposed on MJL Contractors which amounted to £250,000 together with costs of £100,000 following a contravention of S3(1) Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

S3(1) HSWA 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.

A self-employed ground worker, Morgan Prosser, engaged by MJL Contractors suffered a severe laceration to an arm, which resulted in its amputation, when using a petrol disc cutter which “kicked up” as he was cutting reinforced concrete beams. The HSE’s investigation revealed that that the work activity had not been properly planned or assessed, and worse still that Mr Prosser had no previous experience of task he was carrying out. This is something that should have been identified and addressed when the work was being allocated. The HSE said that this serious injury could so easily have been avoided if basic safeguards had been put in place.

What lessons can employers learn from this case?

Know your people

If you are engaging agency workers or specialist sub-contractors, make sure you fully understand their competencies. Discuss the detail of the work and agree on how it will be carried out safely. Consider the health and safety implications of the work that you are assigning to the agency worker or specialist contractor.

Assess the risks

Ask yourself these simple questions:

  • What harm could result from the activity?
  • Who could be harmed?
  • How could that happen?
  • How will you control/reduce the risks?

Provide information, in the form of a detailed risk assessment, about the risks and control measures that you have identified and propose to implement. Make sure they are clearly understood. If the work is to be carried out by a specialist contractor make sure you see their Risk Assessment Method Statement (RAMS) which should contain important information about how work will be carried out and the precautions that are planned. Challenge any element of it that does not seem appropriate or safe. Make it clear who within your organisation should be contacted should any questions/issues arise.

Never assume that any risks that are obvious to you are obvious to anybody else.

Monitor risk and control measures

Make sure risk and control measures are highlighted during site inductions and closely monitor and review the work, particularly in the case of workers acting under your direction and control.

The construction sector remains “high risk” accounting for, according to the HSE’s latest statistics, 30% of all fatal injuries and many more life changing injuries. The sector was the subject of 1700 inspections last year alone, a very significant number.

This case serves as a very real warning that the price of poor safety management remains very high.