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13th July 2017

Don’t get on the HSE’s radar…

A manager and a firm have recently been prosecuted for failing to maintain health and safety standards, despite the fact that there were no reported cases of injury or ill health.

What can be learned from this case?

Been here before

HSE inspectors are a suspicious bunch. A case in point is what happened to Cambridge Timbertec (CT), which had been on the HSE’s radar for some time. During previous visits in 2015 inspectors had identified a number of health and safety issues. To force CT to address them, it was served with three prohibition notices and four improvement notices.

Now relax…

Although CT did enough to close out the notices, it didn’t convince the HSE that it would continue to manage health and safety risk effectively. When inspectors returned to the premise, their suspicions were confirmed.

It appears that CT thought it had done enough to get the HSE off its back and it didn’t have to maintain the standards demanded by the notices. This time, rather than just issuing more notices – the HSE decided to prosecute.

Breaches

Standards must have dropped considerably because CT was prosecuted for offences under the:
• Management of health and safety at work regulations 1999
• Control of Noise at Work Regulation 2005
• Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002; and
• Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

At Cambridge magistrates’ court CT pleaded guilty to all the offences, and was fined £40,000 with £4,000 in costs. In addition, Craig Butler, a manager at CT, pleaded guilty to breaching s.37 Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 (failure in the duty of a director). He was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £700 in costs.

Signal of intent

Following the hearing, an HSE inspector made the following statement: “This case highlights the importance of continuing to comply with health and safety law. The HSE will consider prosecuting both a company and individuals even if there are no reported cases of injury or ill health”.

As this case proves, once you’re on the HSE’ radar, your card is marked and you shouldn’t expect any leniency if it’s deemed that your arrangements aren’t up to scratch.

If the HSE have visited you once and taken action to address issues, you are almost certain to see them again in the not too distant future! In fact if you have been on the wrong end of a notice, you should expect another visit within twelve months. Warn your managers that it’s imperative that standards are maintained, otherwise there could be serious consequences for the business.

Be proactive

In this case CT didn’t have access to anyone competent who could provide them with advice on compliance.

Tip. Don’t be in the dark. If you don’t have the in-house expertise to assess risk and stay on top of your duties, the best option is to employ a health and safety consultant. You can find one on Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR).

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