Director disqualified for six years

A company director who wound up his firm to avoid paying a health and safety fine has been banned from running a business for six years.

In November 2016 Allen and Hunt Construction Engineers were prosecuted for a number of breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 following an accident involving one of their employees who was seriously injured in a fall. The accident was due to Allen and Hunt not providing their staff with the correct equipment or instructions in how to carry out work safely.  The company was fined £267,000 with £7,750 costs.

In December 2016 the company went into liquidation.  Michael Allen, one of the directors, told the Insolvency Service (IS) that the reason for winding up the company was that it lacked the ability to pay the fine.  However, upon further investigation, the IS found that Allen had set up a new company in October 2014, three months after the accident.  This company provided fabrication services, which Allen and Hunt had done previously, whilst the other element of the business, the installation side, had been would down.  All new work that would have gone to Allen and Hunt was directed to the new company.  The IS concluded that these changes were an attempt to avoid paying the fine incurred.  If the new company had not been taking on the new work then Allen and Hunt would have profitable enough that it could have paid the fine.

Subsequently, in June 2018, Allen was banned from being a setting up or running a company for six years without the permission of the court.  The authorities have the ability to prosecute personally those who have connived to avoid paying health and safety fines.

The first lesson from this case is to be serious about health and safety particularly with hazardous activities such as working at height.  Secondly, if things do go wrong, work with the authorities to prevent further re-occurrences.  Such activities will be taken into account when any penalty is being calculated.

For advice and guidance on any aspect of health and safety contact Aegis on 01772 736522.