Penalties for health and safety breaches in the UK have steadily risen, with 2019 being no exception, with fines exceeding over £1 million!

What is saddening is that all of the human tragedies were completely avoidable. 

We have summarised the top 10 highest UK fines to stress the importance of ensuring health and safety compliance in your company.

At 1 , the largest fine was to Valero Energy UK Ltd for £5.1m + £1m costs, and the contractor, B&A Contracts fined £120,000 + £40,000 costs for breeching: 

H&S at Work Act: Sections 2 (1) & 3 (1)

An explosion at a Pembrokeshire oil refinery which took place in 2011, leaving four workers dead and one critically harmed. The blast happened as the five workers were using a vacuum tanker to drain one of the Amine Recovery Unit’s tanks. The resulting explosion was so severe that it blew off the tank’s 5-tonne roof, launching it 55 metres through the air, narrowly missing a highly flammable pipe track, before hitting a butane storage sphere.

HSE discovered that the refinery’s safety management systems possessed numerous longstanding failures. This resulted in the Amine Recovery Unit’s flammable atmosphere risks not being adequately controlled or understood by everyone involved. 

2. Celsa Manufacturing (UK): £1.8m + £146k costs

Management of H&S at Work: Regulation 3

Following an explosion which left two workers dead and one seriously injured, Celsa Manufacturing (UK) Ltd where issued a hefty fine after pleading guilty for allowing an avoidable tragedy to take place. The three employees affected were draining hydraulic lubrication oil from an accumulator vessel, when a flammable atmosphere developed and unexpectedly ignited, causing the fatal blast.

Investigations discovered that the procedure which was being carried out at the time was neither consistently undergone nor properly understood by many of Celsa’s workers, indicating that a tragedy was just waiting to happen. Yet, this could have been prevented entirely had an appropriate risk assessment been carried out, suitable control measures implemented and training. 

3. Karro Foods: £1.9m + £8k costs

H&S at Work Act: Section 2 (1)

Yorkshire food manufacturing company Karro, was fined almost £2 million after two of its employees were critically injured after falling more than four metres through a roof light. One of them suffered a punctured lung, muscular contusions to his thigh, and four rib fractures. The other worker suffered muscular injuries in one leg, a fractured skull, and an ear injury which still affects his memory, balance, and mental health.

This case’s critical factor was the build-up of moss and grime on the roof light which had accumulated over the years. It was thus invisible to the naked eye, and nobody had made any of the workers aware of its presence. After the fine was given out, the HSE inspector said that it was “a wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to provide adequate controls against the risks arising from working at height.”

4. Synergy Housing Ltd: £1.5m + £80k costs & Orona Ltd £533,000 +£40,000 costs

H&S at Work Act: Section 3 (1)

Two companies were fined following the death of a child. The tragedy occurred when five-year-old Alexys Brown put her head outside of a broken vision panel in her home’s lift as it was travelling upwards. Since she was alone in the lift at the time, nobody was able to offer immediate assistance, and she ended up losing her life as a result of the injuries sustained.

The HSE investigation noted many critical failings on the parts of Synergy Housing Limited, the property owner, and Orona Limited, the company in charge of the lift’s maintenance and repairs. These failings included a lack of inspections, the vision panel not being replaced or repaired, no risk assessment carried out, key failsafe mechanisms not in place, and tenants not being given critical safety information.

5. Sisters Food Group: £1.4m + £ 38k costs

H&S at Work Act: Sections 2 (1) & 3 (1)

West Yorkshire food processing company, were handed a hefty fine after one of their employees was injured whilst working. While attempting to unblock one of the machines on the poultry slaughter line, the worker was hit by a metal stillage, causing him serious crush injuries, including a punctured lung and fractures to his ribs and back.

Investigators found that the company had failed to implement simple measures to fix the machine’s guarding deficiencies. Even more alarmingly, it emerged that blockages were typically cleared with the machine still running, thereby significantly increasing the risk and danger involved. The HSE inspector said that “this should serve as a lesson to others in the food processing industry about the importance of effectively guarding their machinery to stop others being similarly injured.”

6. Marathon Oil UK LLC: £1.2m

H&S at Work Act: Section 33 (1)

Offshore Installations: Regulation 4 (1)

On Boxing Day 2015, more than two tonnes of high-pressure methane gas were suddenly released on one of Marathon Oil’s offshore sites. The explosion caused a considerable amount of destruction to the site, however since most of the staff were gathered in the accommodation block, nobody was significantly harmed.

The blast happened after an 8-inch diameter pipe ruptured as a result of ‘Corrosion Under Insulation’, which is a well-known industry risk, according to HSE. The timing of this potentially fatal event was a miracle since had this happened on a typical working day, many lives could have been lost.

7.  Veolia ES (UK): £1m + £130k costs

H&S at Work Act: Section 2 (1)

Refuse collection company, was ordered to pay over £1 million after an employee was killed when he was hit by a reversing dustcart as he was making his way across the worksite.

The HSE investigation discovered that a number of vehicles, including lorries and refuse collection vehicles, were moving around the site with no specific controls in place to protect workers. They also found that Veolia had not performed an adequate risk assessment of the dangers involved in working on such a site.

8. Clancy Docwra Limited: £1m + £109k costs and prison sentence 

H&S at Work Act: Sections 2 (1) & 3 (1)

UK construction company, was ordered to pay over £1 million in fines and court costs after a worker was struck and killed by an excavator on their site. Kevin Campbell had been working the night shift and was disconnecting lifting accessories from a pile close to the 35-tonne excavator when he was suddenly hit by its arm and ended up crushed against a wall.

Clancy Dowcra was found guilty of failing to ensure the safety so far as is reasonably practicable of its own workers and others working on their site. But that wasn’t the end of it. The HSE also found Daniel Walsh, the site’s supervisor who was operating the excavator at the time, guilty of failing to take reasonable care of others present at the time. 

He had to pay court costs amounting to £15,000 and received a 6-month prison sentence, suspended for a year.

9. Delphi Diesel Systems Limited: £1m + £9k costs

H&S at Work Act: Section 2 (1)

Two employees were cleaning a distillation tank, when the highly flammable cleaning compound’s vapour suddenly ignited, causing an explosion. Both workers suffered severe burns as a result of the explosion, and one of them was harmed so badly that he was unable to return to work for more than two months.

The HSE found that Delphi had no safe system of work in place for the cleaning of distillation tanks, no risk assessment had been carried out, and no thought had been given to the use of inflammable materials during cleaning.

10. Cemex UK Operations Ltd: £1m

H&S at Work Act: Sections 2 (1) & 33 (1) (a)

A building materials company, was fined £1,000,000 after a worker was killed at a site in West Calder, Scotland. While carrying out repairs on a dry-sided conveyor, James Brownlie was partly crushed by the conveyor’s centring machine, after it unexpectedly activated.

The HSE opened an investigation into the case and discovered that Cemex should have made sure that the centring machine was isolated before any repair works were carried out. Ultimately, a lack of adequate health and safety compliance led to a tragedy that could very easily have been prevented.

If you’ve any further questions or concerns about Health & Safety, just leave us a comment. We are happy to help!