UK Companies Fined 87,000 Following Workplace Fatality

Dec. 22, 2004
Two companies, Krypton Health Construction Ltd. (KHCL) and Controlled Flame Boilers Ltd. (CFBL), were fined 87,000 in the Central Criminal Court of London following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the death of a pipe fitter.

On April 10, 2002, Robert Burchett sustained fatal injuries following a fall of 9 meters from an unprotected edge on a site where an operating theater was being built at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore.

HSE alleged that both companies failed in their duty of care towards Burchett by exposing him to risks to his safety. Both KHCL and CFBL pleaded guilty at a hearing at City of London Magistrates on Sept. 6 to a charge of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA). Section 3(1) of HSWA states: "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 and safety."

CFBL also pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 of the Construction Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1996 (CHSWR), which states, "Suitable and sufficient steps shall be taken to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling… The steps referred to … include the provision of (a) any guard-rail, toe-board, barrier or other similar means of protection; or (b) any working platform…"

Inspector Giles Meredith, from HSE's Construction Division, investigated the fatality.

"My investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Burchett's death revealed serious failures by both companies in respect of their duties under health and safety law," Meredith said. "A fairly standard construction site activity -- lifting a boiler into place -- was neither properly planned nor supervised."

He said a work plan the companies provided "came nowhere near to adequately addressing the risks involved."

"There was nothing in place to prevent Mr. Burchett falling from the building in question," Meredith said. "The risks of working at height and lifting are both well-understood and well-known in the construction industry and yet still more workers die in this manner than from any other construction activity. If we are to reverse this, then the industry must wake up and do more at every level."

In 2003-04, 70 workers in construction died in Britain; 38 of the fatalities were caused by falls from heights. There were 1,107 major injuries as a result of falls from heights in 2003-04, accounting for 28 percent of all major injuries to workers.

KHCL of Twyford Business Park, Bishop's Stortford, Essex, was fined £35,000 for breaching Section 3(1) of the HSW Act and ordered to pay costs to HSE of £5,000. CFBL was fined £26,000 for breaching Section 3(1) of the HSW Act, and £26,000 for breaching CHSWR. CFBL was ordered to pay costs to HSE of £8,000.

The maximum penalty that can be imposed at a Crown Court for both a single breach of Section 3(1) of the HSW Act and a single breach of a CHSWR regulation is an unlimited fine.

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