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Emerging trends of public sector health and safety sentences

A London council has been fined £500,000 after a road worker who was using a petrol-driven cut-off saw to cut roots and branches from trees sustained a deep cut to his thigh. The Court heard that the saw was fitted with an inappropriate blade for the job. The HSE investigation found that no risk assessment was conducted for the use of the saw and blade. A safe system of work should have been in place that identified suitable and compatible machinery for certain tasks.

The London Borough pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 4(2) and 4(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations and was ordered to pay costs of £8240. This was thought to be the first prosecution of a local authority and demonstrates the pervasive nature of the new sentencing guidelines.

However, this case is somewhat contradicted by the recent fine in HSE v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust when, following the tragic death of a patient in their care when he drowned at a nearby lake during a canoeing activity, Preston Crown Court fined the trust just £30,000 and ordered them to pay prosecution costs of £51,223.88.

It would appear that the new guidelines can still create wide ranging fines based on individual facts thereby failing to provide the 'uniformity' that the guidelines were hoping to achieve. It is early days yet however.

Author: Simon Tingle

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Simon Belfield

Senior Associate

I am a corporate defence specialist who provides up-front regulatory compliance advice and representation to businesses and senior managers in relation to investigations and prosecutions by regulatory bodies.

Simon Tingle

Solicitor

I am a Solicitor in the Regulatory Team, specialising in corporate defence work. I represent companies and individuals in relation to investigations and prosecutions as well as providing compliance advice.