Nov 102016
 

This is the nightmare scenario for every company and every manager working in areas such as construction, warehousing, engineering – indeed in any sector where medium to high risk activities are being carried out.

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Something has gone wrong; an employee has been injured (or maybe even killed); and somebody from management has got to start sorting out the mess. You’re the manager everybody’s looking at, but where do you begin?

As with other emergency situations, such as fire, it’s vital that you’ve already considered your options and drawn up your response plan BEFORE things go wrong (trying to develop an emergency plan as the crisis unfolds is never a good idea!) Having a plan gives you a framework in which to operate and allows you to keep control of things rather than letting matters descend into chaos.

Of course, developing emergency plans can appear to be difficult. It’s never pleasant to think about people being hurt or killed, and that emotion is understandable, but just because a task is unpleasant doesn’t mean you can simply shy away from it. Running a successful company in a responsible way involves facing difficult problems head on and then dealing with them effectively. And safety management – accident response planning – is no exception to this general rule.

One challenge which needs to be overcome is the perception that managing a serious accident is somehow impossible. Certainly there could well be a range of issues all needing to be handled at the same time, from dealing with the casualty to making the area safe to thinking about potential legal repercussions to …. the list can seem endless. But managing things is not impossible if you have a carefully designed plan to guide you.

The first step in designing any response plan is for senior managers to gain an understanding of what is involved, and this is achieved by a programme which takes them logically through the whole business of accident scene management – from an overview of the legal framework involved, through the collection of evidence which could be vital in building the company’s defence to any health & safety charges, to techniques for taking witness statements and analysing the evidence.

This understanding can be provided by means of a suitable training course, and can then be reinforced by further workshop sessions at which the managers can discuss – in complete confidence – exactly how they can design a response plan which meets precisely the needs of their organisation.

If you feel your organisation could benefit from such training and workshop programmes then please contact BoardPlus to set up an initial, free – and confidential – discussion of your needs.

About the Author

andy-farrallAndy has his own health & safety practice, Management & Safety Training Ltd, and is a highly experienced consultant and trainer (including accreditation with NEBOSH both as a tutor and examiner). He is an accredited accident investigator and is qualified in both the health & safety and training sectors.

A Fellow of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (FIIRSM), a chartered safety & health practitioner (CMIOSH) and a member of the UK Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register (OSHCR), he has a proven track record in fields as diverse as accident investigation, lone worker safety, construction safety, and health & safety training.

Prior to moving into the field of health & safety management he was a specialist investigator with two élite UK law enforcement agencies (including taking responsibility for the management of complex international fraud enquiries).

 

Nov 102016
 

I was recently asked by a colleague whether there was any evidence that the Sentencing Guidelines for health & safety offences, which came into effect in February 2016, were actually having an effect.

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I replied that they were, and pointed to a couple of recent sentencing decisions to reinforce my point.

However, since that discussion the evidence is becoming even clearer, and now there can be no doubt that sentences for health & safety breaches are getting heavier. This is such an important point for managers to consider that I think it’s worth revisiting the topic in a bit more detail.

Let’s begin with the case of Baldwins Crane Hire who were sentenced in December 2015 following a fatal accident. In this case the brakes on a 130-tonne mobile crane (maintained by Baldwins) failed due to poor maintenance, the vehicle crashed and the driver was killed.

When sentence was passed the Guidelines had yet to take effect so Baldwins were sentenced under the “old” system. They were fined £700,000 for corporate manslaughter.

Let’s contrast the Baldwins case with a couple of recent sentencing decisions. It’s important to note that, unlike Baldwins, neither of these cases involved the charge of corporate manslaughter but instead involved breaches of health & safety legislation.

First we have the case of engineering company Parker Hannifin Manufacturing Ltd. An employee was engaged in moving heavy machinery within the factory when the machinery overturned and fatally crushed him. It was found by the HSE that the task had not been properly planned and so the company were prosecuted for failing to have a proper risk assessment and for failing in their duty of care to the employee (but, let us be clear, they were not prosecuted for corporate manslaughter).

Parker Hannifin Manufacturing Ltd were fined £1 million for these safety offences.

Now let us turn to the case of Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd, the operators of the Smiler ride at Alton Towers.

On 2nd June 2015 a car on the ride collided at speed with an empty carriage which had stopped on the track. Engineers had overridden the safety systems in the mistaken belief that there was a computer error. There were numerous casualties, and two victims had legs amputated as a result of their injuries. However, thankfully there were no fatalities.

The company had pleaded guilty to health & safety failures at a previous hearing, and accordingly was fined £5 million for what the Judge described as a “catastrophic failure” in their health & safety management systems. The Judge also indicated that had they not pleaded guilty but instead had been convicted following a “not guilty” plea and a trial then the penalty would have been a fine in the order of £7.5 million.

So, the picture is clear: within months we’ve gone from a £700,000 fine for corporate manslaughter to a fine of £5 million for an accident which caused serious injuries but didn’t actually cause fatalities (although it could easily have done so).

Health & safety fines are going up, and of that there can be no doubt. Hence any manager who still thinks that health & safety is some sort of optional extra, or (worse) is willing to treat fines for breaching health & safety simply as a business overhead is riding for an extremely unpleasant fall.

 

About the Author

andy-farrallAndy has his own health & safety practice, Management & Safety Training Ltd, and is a highly experienced consultant and trainer (including accreditation with NEBOSH both as a tutor and examiner). He is an accredited accident investigator and is qualified in both the health & safety and training sectors.

A Fellow of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (FIIRSM), a chartered safety & health practitioner (CMIOSH) and a member of the UK Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register (OSHCR), he has a proven track record in fields as diverse as accident investigation, lone worker safety, construction safety, and health & safety training.

Prior to moving into the field of health & safety management he was a specialist investigator with two élite UK law enforcement agencies (including taking responsibility for the management of complex international fraud enquiries).

Nov 092016
 

Managing the various risks arising from business operations has always been a challenge for company directors in all sectors, but a recent change in the law for England & Wales has changed the risk management landscape significantly.

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With effect from 1st February 2016 the latest Sentencing Guidelines for health & safety offences allow for the imposition of £multi-million fines, previously an extremely rare occurrence. This change in sentencing protocols has attracted some attention in business circles (but whether it’s been given the attention it really deserves is a moot point). However there has been another seemingly small – yet highly significant – change invoked which could be a real game changer when it comes to practical risk management.

The change I refer to is the fact that Courts now base their sentence not on what actually happened but on what could have happened, i.e. the potential for harm or damage arising from the safety failure.

At first sight this might seem to be a trivial point, but it’s far from trivial.

For example: companies are no longer able to argue that, since there was no damage and nobody got hurt, their fine should simply be a token sum (and, of course, your Honour can rest assured that lessons have been learned … blah, blah, blah). Instead the Court will look at what could realistically have happened and will set the fine accordingly.

I made this point recently when providing a briefing to the Board of Directors of a national company from the gas sector. They use some 400 engineers across the country for work such as the installation and removal of gas meters, and their sphere of operations ranges from domestic installations to large commercial sites such as factories, supermarkets and schools.

The theoretical example I suggested to them was a gas leak arising from a faulty meter installation in a school canteen. Even if we assume for sake of argument that this theoretical leak had been detected quickly, and thus the school had been evacuated without any injuries, how might the prosecution approach the matter?

The prosecution could well argue that the potential outcome could realistically have been a fire or explosion resulting in possibly multiple fatalities amongst the school population – and, realistically, how could the defence argue against that assertion?

The fact that there had been no casualties would be considered the result of pure chance and thus nothing to do with the gas company. The company could not take the credit for blind chance or somebody else’s good fortune.

On the basis that the incident could have resulted in serious injuries and/ or multiple fatalities the Court would probably impose a fine certainly in seven figures and quite possibly eight.

This example (which, I stress again, is theoretical) had a suitable impact on the Board and stimulated a very valuable discussion about the need for effective safety management.

So this Board now understands the implication of sentencing based on potential outcome, but how many more Boards of Directors are blissfully unaware of the new risks they’re taking?

I am currently working with BoardPlus to develop training modules which will address crucial issues such as these – so watch this space!

About the Author

andy-farrallAndy has his own health & safety practice, Management & Safety Training Ltd, and is a highly experienced consultant and trainer (including accreditation with NEBOSH both as a tutor and examiner). He is an accredited accident investigator and is qualified in both the health & safety and training sectors.

A Fellow of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (FIIRSM), a chartered safety & health practitioner (CMIOSH) and a member of the UK Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register (OSHCR), he has a proven track record in fields as diverse as accident investigation, lone worker safety, construction safety, and health & safety training.

Prior to moving into the field of health & safety management he was a specialist investigator with two élite UK law enforcement agencies (including taking responsibility for the management of complex international fraud enquiries).