Director fined for putting the public at risk on site

A recent court case shows the need for effectively managing health and safety risks on site which would affect workers or the public.

The Director of Cheshire Oaks Fisheries Ltd, Michael Simpson, had secured a grant to develop a fishery. Once construction had started on the project, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) had visited site to monitor the works. They found a number of uncontrolled risks at the site, such as gates left open and inadequate fencing allowing access to excavated lakes and some deep water. The RPA notified the HSE, who followed up with a visit themselves, which led to a number of enforcement notices being issued.

Soon after the HSE inspector’s visit, the company changed its name from Cheshire Oaks Fisheries Ltd to Rural Development Programme Ltd, with Simpson continuing in his role as director. The effect of this was to put an end to the enforcement notices issued in the company’s name. In response, the HSE requested a follow-up visit. This request was ignored and the inspector was barred from entering the site.

The HSE subsequently brought a prosecution against Simpson under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974 (HSWA) for putting workers and the public at risk by failing to put in place the necessary safety measures. This was enabled by virtue of Section 37 of HSWA which allows for the HSE to prosecute directors and managers for offences committed by their company. This requires the HSE to demonstrate to the court that the offence happened due to the consent, connivance or neglect of the individual in question. Simpson pleaded guilty to the offence and was fined £594 with costs of £10,209.

The point to note in this case is that directors and senior managers cannot just pass responsibility for health and safety to the company that they work for. In attempting to frustrate the enforcement action by officials, directors and senior managers run the risk of being charged in person.

You can see a similar case here.

For advice and guidance on the responsibilities of the client with regard to construction works Aegis can assist you. If you do require any such help contact us on 01772 736522.