Individual prosecution shows HSE 'is prepared to focus on individuals'

Out-Law News | 04 Nov 2019 | 3:56 pm | 1 min. read

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has successfully prosecuted the owner of a company after an employee was crushed to death in a construction accident.

The case is believed to be the first successful prosecution in Scotland brought under section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which allows the HSE to bring actions against individuals instead of companies.

Health and safety expert Charlotte O’Kane of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “This prosecution is in line with the general increase in prosecutions of individuals over the past few years and shows that the Crown and the HSE are prepared to focus enforcement action on individuals rather than companies where appropriate".

O’Kane said. “It should serve as a reminder for all employees, from the most junior up to board level, that they could be prosecuted as an individual for health and safety failings and that it is everyone’s responsibility to look after their own health and safety and ensure that their actions don’t place others at risk.”

Front Row Builders sole director and employee Robert Harvey was given a ten-month custodial sentence by the Hamilton Sheriff Court for his role in the death of employee Nicholas Hall. Hall was crushed to death by an excavator bucket operated by Harvey, when he was pinned against a wall during an excavation.

The HSE investigation into the accident found that Harvey had failed to undertake a sufficient assessment of the risks to those who had been instructed to work with him and operated the excavator without receiving the appropriate training or certification, and had given instructions to Hall.

HSE inspector Helen Diamond said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.”