Category Archives: media

Miniscule fines and no jail for those guilty Buncefield explosion

Prosecuted for running a filthy pizza restaurant – get a suspended jail sentence and banned from running a food business; Blow up an oil depot in the biggest mainland explosion in 60 years and miraculously avoid killing hundreds – miniscule fines for the five companies responsible compared to their profits, with no senior manager held personally responsible and no jail!

Hilda Palmer, spokesperson for the Hazards Campaign said: “We have campaigned for bigger fines and for holding directors accountable for their actions for many years, so the miniscule, inadequate fines levied on those responsible for the Buncefield explosion is no surprise and will, yet again, act as no deterrent (1).

“The fines are also far too low to reflect in any way the immense damage caused to the 43 people injured, to the local community and environment but we see yet again how corporations behaving badly externalise the costs of their crimes – in this case at least £1 billion! – on to the community and the rest of society and are allowed to get away with it again and again. On the same day a Birmingham restaurant owner was given a 36 week suspended prison sentence for a dirty pizzeria and banned from running a food business (2). As none of the directors of the three companies that caused the massive Buncefield explosion was held accountable in court, such a penalty was not available.

“The fact that the local MP also thinks the fines are far too small (3) is surprising as his Conservative party, now part of the coalition government, is a vehement supporter of the deregulation of health and safety law and its enforcement as unnecessary red tape. They continue with their mantra that safety laws are a huge and untenable burden on business, with Lord Young currently reviewing health and safety with a view to cutting this so-called burden. The Buncefield explosion shows that even in extremely hazardous industries, employers fail on a monumental scale to comply with the most basic and common sense of procedures, apparently untroubled by threats of being caught or of penalties they may suffer which amount to hundredths of one percent of their profits, as in this case. The fact that no-one was killed and more were not injured was pure luck, but many hundreds of people have had their lives and livelihoods immeasurably damaged by the criminal behaviour of these three companies. No worker and no one living anywhere near a large corporation can feel any safer as a result of the fines on these companies.

“It is time to be clear that the current enforcement of health and safety, and punishment of those guilty of breaking the law, is not working and needs strengthening, not weakening with more funding and support or we are all in danger. It is also time to be clear that tiny fractions of one percent of a large company’s profits will not harm them much, and that those who make the decisions which lead to such horrendous breaches of very basic health and safety precautions must be held accountable. It is simply not justice that the owner of a dirty pizza shop faces jail and is banned, but causing the biggest explosion in peace time results in miniscule fines. The directors of Total, Hertfordshire Oil Storage Ltd and British Pipeline Agency Ltd, TAV Engineering Ltd and Motherwell Control Systems should face the consequences of their actions and inactions, via legal duties on directors, and face jail for their crimes, or we will see more incidents like this.

“It must be very clear now to the local MP and everyone else, but especially the Tories and Lord Young (,) that deregulation of health and safety and cuts in its enforcement are not going to prevent another incident like this, and that deregulation has been blown-to smithereens in the Buncefield explosion – We did not vote to die at work and we expect MPs to stand up for our lives, not make them more hazardous.”

More information Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557

Notes

1.http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2010/hse-buncefieldsentencing.htm

2. http://www.cieh.org/ehn/ehn3.aspx?id=31842

3. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/mp-calls-buncefield-blast-fines-an-insult-2028409.html

No-one should die simply for going to work but HSE figures are not the whole story

The Hazards Campaign very much welcomes any reduction in the number of people being killed simply for going to work –HSE PR ‘Worker deaths fall to new low’ – but remembers far too many families devastated as a result of someone never coming home from work.

Hazards Campaign spokesperson, Hilda Palmer said: “No-one should die because they went to work to earn a living, except in rare, freak and unavoidable accidents. But yet again we must point out that the HSE figures – 151 compared to 178 the year before(1)- are NOT the total national figures for those killed by work and should not be reported as such. The UK Statistics Authority in its assessment of the HSE’s compliance with the code of practice for official statistics, May 2010, states that the ‘HSE does not produce an overall figure for work-related fatalities in Great Britain.’ and makes recommendations that they ‘investigate the feasibility of producing statistics on the total number of work-related injuries and fatalities’ (2)

“HSE reports only those killed whose deaths must be reported under RIDDOR, while we include all worker-related incident deaths and estimate this to be up to 1,500 a year even in the recession. Almost all work-related deaths are not accidents, and could and should have been prevented but workers do not only die in incidents due to a lack of safety, many tens of thousands more die of illnesses such as occupational cancers, heart disease and lung diseases caused by poor working condition, up to 50,000 per year we estimate (3).

“It is vital that the ill wind of a recession, which in this case has delivered at least part of this reduction in some workplace deaths, is not overestimated or taken as justification by the Lord Young Review or the forthcoming cuts in the public sector, for an assault on health and safety laws or their enforcement. Every worker, wherever they work, in an office, a hospital, a school, on a building site, a farm, in recycling, on an oil rig, or as an emergency worker, is at risk of injury or ill-health caused by their employer’s non-compliance. All workers are entitled to have not only their safety but their immediate and long term health protected while they are working. All workers lives are precious: a fire-fighter’s life is just as precious as a construction worker; an office worker should be protected from risks to their health and safety just like any other worker. Over zealous health and safety, or refusing to accept risks, or too much health and safety law, did not kill these people, but non-existent compliance and weak enforcement did contribute to their avoidable deaths. This is unacceptable at any time but especially now when we are all being told we must work harder, for less money and for many years longer.”

For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557

Notes

1. Worker deaths fall to new low HSE PR 30.06.10:

2. The UK Statistics Authority in their Report 42 on Assessments of compliance with Code of Practice for official statistics – Statistics on Health and Safety at Work (produced by the HSE) Published May 2010

Para 1.3.4: ‘Statistics on work-related injuries and fatalities exclude those injuries that take place on the roads, in the air, at sea and exclude the armed forces. Although this is clearly acknowledged on HSE’s website, it is not always made clear in the presentation of the statistics- for example, when addressing the organisation’s targets in the compendium for publication. HSE does not produce an overall figure for work-related fatalities in Great Britain.’

Para 1.2 Under Decision concerning designation as National Statistics HSE stats on work-related ill-health and injury and on enforcement can be designated as National Statistics subject to HSE implementing the enhancements listed in section 1.5 and reporting them to the Authority by September 2010.

Section 1.5 lists 15 Requirement for designation as National Statistics Requirement 8: ‘Investigate the feasibility of producing statistics on the total number of work-related injuries and fatalities, including those not reportable under RIDDOR

3. ‘The Whole Story’ published in Safety and Health Practitioner December 2008

The Hazards Campaign says: “Vote to save your life at work”

The Hazards Campaign says: “Vote to save your life at work. Lobby your parliamentary candidates and party leaders on the demands listed below which would improve health and safety, save lives and money. Reject deregulation and cuts in enforcement which are based on false information and failed models, and will endanger even more lives, demand big improvements.”

While there isn’t anything positive for workplace health and safety activists in the Labour, Tory or Liberal Democrat manifesto’s there is the worrying commitment to reduce regulation in the Tory one. Given the Tory’s persistent and corrupt attacks on health and safety laws, including those in recent weeks, this must be an issue for those considering which way to vote in the forthcoming election.

Acknowledge the real harm caused by work and publicise the real risk to workers.More are killed at work than in war or from knife crime every year.

Publicise the evidence about who pays and refute burdens on business myths. ‘Who Pays? You do!’ Employers pay for less than 25% of the harm they cause.

Increase enforcement activity to end the current enforcement crisis. Only 1 in 13 major and fatal injuries are investigated and no action at all is taken in 98% of cases.

No deregulation of health and safety. There is less regulation now than when the Tories were in power 15 years ago.

End employer accountability deficit by giving directors legal duties for health & safety. Fining businesses does not stop them killing again like serial killers, or liquidating the company and escaping scot free, unless directors are held to account.

Support the union safety effect – increase enforcement of SRSC Regs and extend the union safety effect. Union workplaces are twice as safe and healthy, all workers should benefit from the union safety effect.

Contact: 0161 636 7557 http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/

For more detailed information on the Hazards Campaign demands – electiondemands 

Artwork in the report is copyright Andy Vine. See:

When will senior directors of companies be held personally accountable for workplace killings?

When will senior directors of companies such as Biffa Waste Services Ltd. be held personally accountable for their serial killing and putting workers health and safety at risk?

The Hazards Campaign asks the leaders of the political parties to tell us where they stand on employers who kill and injure their workers, and especially those who do it again and again:

“When will senior directors of companies such as Biffa be held personally accountable for their serial killing and injuring workers?”

Following the latest fine of £280,000.00 against Biffa Waste Services Ltd for not preventing the death of Dennis Krauesslar at its waste disposal site in Newbury in 2007, the Hazards Campaign says given the history of repeated criminality of the company (see below) and the deadly nature of their crimes – why hasn’t any senior director been called to account in the courts for causing these deaths and many other potentially lethal breaches of safety and environmental laws?

Biffa’s abysmal health and safety record is illustrated by the five separate entries in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) prosecutions database which relate to death and potential injury, AND……… the 16 separate entries in the HSE’s notices database, including many stop work notices, since 2001. These incidents include:

• the death of Charlie Smith, run over by a mechanical shovel loader at Biffa’s Eversley Depot, Hampshire in 2006, for which they were fined £190,000.00.
• the death of employee Ronald Trow who was crushed by the tailgate of a lorry at their Walsall landfill site in 2001 for which they were fined £30,000.00.
• the death of eleven year old Gavin Reed who fell at Houghton Quarry landfill in October 200 for which Biffa was fined £2,000.00.

Biffa was also prosecuted by the Environment Agency (EA) and fined £40,000.00 for not managing asbestos in the correct manner at their landfill in Derbyshire in 2007. Biffa was again prosecuted by the EA and fined £60,000.00 for breaching an EA permit, poor storage of containerised hazardous wastes and inadequate management of third party contractors at their Wednesbury hazardous waste installation in 2006 & 2007.

The Hazards Campaign calls upon the leaders of political parties to explain where they stand on this issue of the failure of the existing legal system to change the behaviour of a company, what they would do about it and why those individuals who ran this deadly company at the time have not been personally called to answer in court.

The Hazards Campaign believes the evidence shows that directors of companies with a similar record will get away with it too, unless a positive legal duty to be responsible for the health and safety of their organisation is imposed on all directors. This does not feature in the manifesto of any of the political parties and we wonder why?

While the fines mentioned above look substantial they are but are a drop in the ocean of the company’s turnover and profits and act as no real deterrent as Biffa has shown. Again and again.

The Hazards Campaign says company directors and employers will not give due regard to preventing workplace death, disability, injury and ill-health until they are held personally liable and we want to know which political party will act to put a stop to this corporate crime wave.

Prosecutions of Biffa Waste Services Ltd are recorded on the HSE enforcement databases here:HSE enforcement databases

For more information on the deadly record of the waste industry see Hazards magazine’s Green jobs blog

Hazards Campaign: www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/index.htm

Ends

Hazards Campaign comment on the election manifestos

Commenting after the publication of the Labour and Conservative party’s manifestos, Mick Holder of the Hazards Campaign said: “While there isn’t anything positive for workplace health and safety activists in either the Labour or Tory manifesto’s there is the worrying commitment to reduce regulation in the Tory one. Given the Tory’s persistent and corrupt attacks on health and safety laws, including those in recent weeks, this must be an issue for those considering which way to vote in the forthcoming election.

“A huge concern for the Hazards Campaign is that cuts to the public sector will further weaken the inspection, enforcement and prosecution role of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authority enforcers who are already falling down on the job because of understaffing and a timid enforcement regime.

“Most disappointing is no commitment to place full legal duties for health and safety on all company directors as recommended by Rita Donaghy, author of the government’s report on the appalling safety record of the construction industry, “One death is too many”. Another major disappointment is the failure to recognise the fantastic work of trade union safety representatives in reducing the number of injuries, disablements and deaths at work, which is all done voluntarily, and the need to strengthen their role in prevention.”

Ends

Mick Holder 020 8223 0712

Hazards Campaign: www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/index.htm

The government must admit the true extent of workplace ill-health, accidents and death

It’s great news Workers Memorial Day will now be officially recognised by the government – now they must admit the true extent of workplace ill-health, accidents and death AND enforce the law as vigorously as they do parking offences to reduce the damage done !

The Hazards Campaign welcomes the decision of the government to formally recognise Workers Memorial Day. We also welcome the comments from Yvette Cooper, Work and Pensions Secretary of State, who said: “This is a tribute to all those who have campaigned long and hard, including bereaved families, trade unions, campaign groups, and many other organisations and individuals.”

But it is not enough for the government to commemorate the day without also recognising their role in underestimating the true extent of the damage work does in the UK, how their inaction perpetuates this myth and lets employers get away with murder. Parking offences in the UK are enforced by thousands more enforcement officers on the street and parking offences are enforced with far more vigour than workplace health and safety offences ever are – and this must change NOW.

Government, through their agency the Health and Safety Executive, give a very skewed and limited picture of the damage done by work every year. They say 180 people die in workplace incidents and 8,000 die from workplace cancers when the true figures are much higher and the overall picture much grimmer.

Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign said: “A more realistic estimate, which includes work-related road-traffic deaths and suicides attributed to work-related stress, is 1500-1600 in so called accidents, per year. But even these figures are the tip of the iceberg; if we include the many thousands who die from illnesses caused by their working conditions the total could be as high as 50,000 a year! Government has long been criticised for under-estimating deaths from work- related cancers which even the most conservative estimate by global experts is about 18,000 each year.” (1).

The Hazards Campaign, alongside the Construction Safety Campaign and trade unions, started recognising Workers Memorial Day in the UK over twenty years ago with events around the country on every April 28th. These events were supported by many families whose loved ones were killed at or by work and this led to the formation of Families Against Corporate Killers who also support the day every year. Other campaigns, such as the Simon Jones Memorial Campaign, also supported and campaigned on WMD.

Contact:

Hilda Palmer – 0161 636 7557

(1) More detailed information about the true extent of workplace ill-health, accident and deaths in The Whole Story

Why are we waiting ? Campaign groups calls on government to stop talking and ACT to stop deaths in the construction industry !

Why are we waiting ? Campaign groups calls on government to stop talking and ACT to stop deaths in the construction industry !

Following reports that the government is to again consult the killer construction industry about how to improve their dreadful safety record rather than act on the recommendations of it’s own DWP commissioned report, the Hazards Campaign said: “It beggars belief the government is again dodging action on construction safety by talking to the construction employers who are concerned about Rita Donaghy’s recommendations. We have been waiting for what seems like forever for the government to stop talking and act. If Yvette Cooper plans to talk to the employers who create the risks and cause the deaths, then she must explain why she is stalling to those who have to take the risks and pay the costs:  injured workers and families of those killed. We call on the government – again – to accept the recommendations of the Donaghy report supported by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, and implement them now to start reducing the damage being done to construction workers.”

Background:
The government gave the task of looking at ways of improving safety in the construction industry to DWP which commissioned  Rita Donaghy to carry out a review.  She consulted extensively with industry before reporting earlier this year in a report called  ‘One Death is Too Many’. This report received the backing of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.  Since then workers, industry, unions and campaigners including Families Against Corporate Killers, have been waiting for government to act.

The Hazards Campaign welcomed Rita Doneghy’s report which called for:

  • Positive legal duties on all company directors for health and safety, as many are not covered and are currently able to evade the full strength of the law.
  • Greater involvement of trade unions and especially union safety representatives.
  • Bring construction under the remit of the Gangmasters Licencing Authority.
  • Emphasising health and safety requirements in publicly funded construction projects.

One death is too many – Rita Donaghy’s report:

http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm76/7657/7657.pdf

For further comment contact: Mick Holder

020 8223 0712

Hazards campaign says Government must accept construction deaths report recommendations

Following the publication of the report on fatalities in the UK construction industry written by Rita Donaghy for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Mick Holder of the Hazards Campaign said: “There are many ideas in the report that, if implemented, will help to secure a far safer industry. It is now down to government to accept the report and act rather than ignoring the recommendations as they have in the past when some of the same ideas that are in this report came out of their own Select Committee. We now need a properly resourced Health and Safety Executive (HSE) so they are capable of making these good ideas workable ideas and for government to stop their obsession with pandering to irresponsible elements in business that believe operating safely is a “burden”.”

Hazards Campaign contact: 0161 636 7557

The Hazards Campaign tells the government to get on with it!

Mick Holder of the Hazards Campaign said: “Following the publication of two government reports in the past week calling for legal safety duties on company directors, the Hazards Campaign says ministers must act to make named bosses answerable for corporate safety crimes. Government must urgently agree to the recommendations of both these reports and get on with it !”

The comment follows the publication of a DWP report on construction fatalities and a follow up report by the government’s Work and Pensions Committee.

The DWP inquiry into the underlying causes of fatal incidents in construction was chaired by Rita Donaghy who made 29 recommendations including: “positive duties on directors to ensure good health and safety management through a framework of planning, delivering, monitoring and reviewing.”

This has been backed by the Work and Pensions Committee who said: “The Committee has endorsed the recommendation for positive duties on directors in Rita Donaghy’s recent report. “ The committee also gives support to the DWP’s construction report.

There are other areas where the two reports agree. Increasing worker involvement in health and safety issues, holding negligent employers to account and an end to blacklisting. The DWP report explicitly calls for more resources for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in construction and higher fines in the courts.

The Hazards Campaign has been calling for these initiatives for very many years.

Contact the Hazards Campaign:
0161 636 7557

For further information about the Hazards Campaign:

Workplace health and safety: follow-up report – Work and Pensions Committee

DWP inquiry into the underlying causes of construction fatal accidents:

Hazards Campaign welcomes reduction in workplaces deaths but calls for action on the true extent of deaths, disability and injury

Speaking after the announcement yesterday by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), our workplace health and safety police, that there has been a reduction from 233 workers killed in 2007/8 down to 180 in 2008/9 with the previous lowest recorded in 2005/6 at 217.

Mick Holder of the Hazards Campaign said: “The reduction in deaths is very good news indeed. However, it must be taken in the context that very many more people lose their lives because of work activity who are not recorded by the HSE, such as the huge number of people killed on the roads who are at work at the time or the thousands that die from asbestos diseases from contact at work. There are also still worrying areas, such as the increasingly poor record of the waste and recycling industry.”

The HSE estimate the cost to the UK economy of workplace injury, disability and ill-health to be possibly as high as £30billion every year.

To reduce this, the Hazards Campaign continues to call for:

  • More resources for the HSE and a reversal in the decline of their enforcement activity.
  • Full legal responsibilities for health and safety to be placed on company directors.
  • Stronger legal rights for trade union safety reps in support of their work in making work safer and healthier.
  • Workers to be given the right to refuse dangerous work without the fear of victimisation.

Contact: 020 8223 0712 or 0161 636 7557

Further information

Hazards Campaign on the true extent of workplace injury

HSE Press Release on fatalities

The Hazards Campaign is a national campaign on occupational and environmental health and safety issues that has been in existence since 1988. http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/