Case Law

Shaun Riley was driving a dumper truck at a farm near Chorley in Lancashire, shifting soil to create a car park. After a few successful trips, the truck tipped over and he was killed by the load he was carrying. There were no witnesses to what happened. He had not been trained, he was unsupervised and he was not wearing the seat belt that would almost certainly have saved him.
Three parties were prosecuted for health and safety offences: his employer, the site contractor and the contractor’s managing director. The prosecution rested its case on the fact of the accident – the employee’s death was enough to show that there had been a breach of the duty to ensure his health and safety. The burden of proof then passed to the defendants to establish that it was not reasonably practicable for them to do more than they did to prevent the tragedy.
The court supported the view that the prosecution had to do no more than identify a risk to the health and safety of employees or the public, provided it was a material risk that any reasonable person would appreciate and take steps to guard against. Further details as to the precise acts and omissions that caused the death were unnecessary.
In this case the employer was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay costs of £37,500; the contractor paid a fine of £100,000 and costs of £75,000; the managing director’s fine was set at £75,000 with costs of £103,000.

Notice in this case that three individuals or bodies corporate including the managing director personally, were held accountable for the same breach. Sobering Stuff for any company director. You have a personal responsibility for the Health and Safety of anyone who may be impacted by your operation, weather employed by you, a sub contractor or a member of the public.

“The court supported the view that the prosecution had to do no more than identify a risk to the health and safety of employees or the public, provided it was a material risk that any reasonable person would appreciate” – You are a “reasonable person” so this means that it’s a good idea for YOU to have sit down and think about the things in your business which would hurt someone and think about how you might stop that happening. Assessing the risks you might say. If only we had a name for that. Let all it a risk assessment!