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Safety failures leading to near-fatal accident result in prison sentence for employer

Posted: 18/06/2018

A scrap metal business operator has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and given a custodial sentence after serious health and safety failures occurred, which led to severe injuries to an employee.

Mr George Jones of Pembrokeshire operated a scrap metal business at the time of the events. Part of his operation was run from a set up known as Carew Cars. A member of staff was working on that site and, following instruction from Mr Jones, he suffered very severe electrocution injuries when plugging a machine into a wall socket. While he survived the incident, the subsequent HSE investigation found that he could easily have died as a result.

The investigation established that the electrical installation at this unit was unsafe and in fact more suited to a domestic premises. The socket in use was in poor condition with exposed wires, the roof of the building had holes in it and there was evidence of water ingress on the wall behind the socket which contributed to the incident. Mr Jones was prosecuted directly and pleaded guilty to breaching section 4 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The matter was heard at Swansea Crown Court where Mr Jones was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison as a result of the events.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Anne Marie Orrells, said: “This case highlights the importance of regular proactive maintenance and inspection of work equipment, including electrical installations, to ensure that they do not deteriorate to the extent that it puts people at risk… In this case, George Jones failed to effectively maintain equipment and it could have resulted in a fatal injury.”

Philippa Luscombe, partner in the personal injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP, comments: “A high number of the cases in which we are instructed to pursue claims against employers for accidents at work involve significant and often life changing injuries. More often than not, these injuries are entirely avoidable and have happened only because an employer has not given enough time or effort to consider the safety of employees to ensure that risks are managed appropriately and the legislation put in place to protect workers is adhered to.

“We have dealt with two cases involving very serious injuries, in one case fatal, arising out of faulty electrics and a lack of basic electrical safety procedures. In this day and age it is unacceptable. Directors of companies which do not properly care for the safety of their employees should take heed of the HSE’s powers to pursue them directly and the scope for a custodial sentence. It is worth noting in this instance that Mr Jones had other convictions in relation to the operation and safety of his scrap metal business and this is likely to have been a factor in his custodial sentence. Nevertheless, it is an important reminder that the court has such powers.”

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