10 Highest UK Health & Safety Fines of 2020


Fines for health and safety breaches in the UK were less substantial in 2020 than 2019. We’ve examined the failings that prompted these penalties and the underlying statistics behind them.

Every employee has the right to work in a safe and protected environment and all organisations have a legal duty of care to comply with. It’s worth remembering that often the biggest cost of health and safety incidents is on your company’s reputation and employee morale.

In 2019 every health and safety fine in the top 10 was in excess of £1 million. As only 3 of the top 10 fines in 2020 were at this level, you might expect a fall in sickness and injury, however the picture is far from clear cut. Many areas continue a downward trend with the notable exception of work-related stress!

Key UK health and safety statistics

Despite the UK having one of the best health and safety records in the world, the latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that in 2018/2019:

  • 147 workers killed at work
  • 69,208 non-fatal injuries to employees (RIDOR)
  • 138,000 over-7-day-absence injuries
  • 443,000 up to 7-day-absence injuries
  • 28.2m working days lost due to work-related ill-health and workplace injuries
  • 12.8m working days lost because of stress, depression, anxiety or musculoskeletal disorders
  • Workplace injuries and ill health cost: £15 billion (2017/18)

We have examined the causes of the biggest health and safety fines in the UK, to help you understand how to avoid the substantial penalties associated with compliance breaches.

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10. Mace: £400k + £9k costs

Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 Breach: Section 13 (1)

A UK construction firm, Mace Limited, have been prosecuted for failing to coordinate the activities of its subcontractors in carrying out remedial works on an automatic opening vent (AOV). They have been fined a total of £400k in addition to costs. An investigation was opened after a worker was injured while working on an AOV.

An HSE investigation found that the AOV involved had been incorrectly classified by Mace, meaning that access was not obtained via a ‘Permit to Work’. What’s more, the company also failed to make safe and install a GRP grate into the AOV, something that the HSE considered to be safety-critical.

9. DHL Parcel UK: £400k + £9k costs

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

DHL Parcel UK have been slapped with a £400k fine after an HSE investigation into a 2016 incident found the firm guilty of breaching H&S law.

What happened is that a DHL worker was pushing a loaded wheeled container through a warehouse when a forklift truck carrying a cage of parcels collided with the worker’s container. As a result of the collision, the worker pushing the loaded container was thrown to the ground, and this employee had to be treated in hospital for a head fracture.

8. Saint-Gobain Construction Products UK: £400k + £12k costs

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

Construction materials firm, Saint-Gobain Construction Products UK, has been issued a £400k penalty after one of its employees lost an arm while on the job. While the employee was manually clearing out a blockage from a rock-handling belt, a colleague who could not see him activated the ‘start/stop’ switch. This resulted in the employee’s arm being drawn into the rotating drum, severing it on the spot.

The HSE found that no safe system of work had been implemented for clearing rock safely, and that no risk assessment had been carried out either. HSE inspector Michelle Morrison said “this injury could easily have been prevented, had the risk have been identified. Employers should make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery.”

7. Viridor Waste Management: £400k + £13k costs

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations Breach: Section 4 (1)

Waste management firm, Viridor, has been found guilty of inflicting a “life changing injury” on one of its workers, resulting in a penalty of more than £400k. What happened is that a Viridor employee was working on foot in his role as banksman, when a contractor reversed a 22.5-tonne shovel loader onto him, crushing the lower half of his body.

In a statement to the HSE, Viridor’s director apologised to the victim and his family for the incident. Viridor accepted that in spite of having procedures in place to manage vehicle safety on site, on this particular occasion they were regrettably not adhered to.

6. McGee Group: £500k + £66k costs

Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007 Breach: Section 22 (1)

A demolition company, McGee Group Limited, has been fined over £500k after one of its workers was fatally wounded when a concrete slab collapsed beneath him. This happened despite another worker having made a site supervisor aware of the unsafe conditions they were working in.

Findings from the HSE investigation revealed that the victim had not received adequate health and safety training. What’s more, CCTV footage also revealed that demolition work on the site had been unsafely carried out in the weeks preceding the incident.

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5. TM Telford Dairy: £600k + £14k costs

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

At TM Telford Dairy, a Telford-based yoghurt manufacturer, an engineer was severely burnt after coming into contact with nitric acid cleaning solution with a temperature of 650°C, while performing maintenance on a faulty valve. The valve exploded under pressure and the acid surged upwards, hitting the facility’s roof and raining down upon the engineer and another worker.

The HSE discovered that the company had provided no formal training to the two workers involved regarding isolation and lock-off procedures, safe removal of valves, and use of work permits. According to the HSE, “if a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the injuries sustained by the employees could have been prevented.”

4. Chesterfield Special Cylinders: £700k + £169k costs

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

A manufacturer of gas cylinders, Chesterfield Special Cylinders Limited, has been fined over £869,000 for H&S breaches after an engineer was killed by shrapnel ejected from work equipment. The engineer was leak testing gas cylinders when one of them suddenly exploded.

An HSE investigation found that Chesterfield failed to sufficiently assess the risks from the use of Vaporol, a mineral oil-based corrosion inhibitor, inside cylinders during leak testing, ultimately resulting in an avoidable fatality.

3. Modus Workspace: £1.1m + £68k costs

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

A London refurbishment firm, Modus Workspace, was fined over £1m after a worker fell 3m, suffering grievous injuries. While testing a sprinkler system for leaks from an extension ladder, one of Modus’ employees fell into the gap between the internal roof and the external wall after the ladder slipped away.

The HSE found that appropriate measures had not been taken to prevent such incidents. Investigating HSE inspector John Berezansky, commented that the “injuries were life changing and he could have easily been killed. This serious incident and devastation could have been avoided if basic safety measures had been put in place.”

2. Phillips 66 Limited: £1.2m + £20k costs

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

The refinery giant, Phillips 66, has been fined £1.2 million after a sudden superheated steam blast almost killed one worker and left another in intensive care. Apprentice Scott Irvine was hospitalised for six months and required special care for an additional 13 months after he was thrown across scaffolding by the sheer force of the blast. Mr Irvine suffered 60% burns, while his supervisor suffered 40% burns.

The HSE investigation found that the accumulation of steam which led to the blast happened over a short period of time, but a suitable network of safety protocols had not been implemented to help identify and deal with such a risk.

Phillips 66 have promised to take steps “to prevent a similar event from happening again.”

1. Rhino Construction & Building Services: £1.3m + £4k costs

Work at Height Regulations: Section 4

The largest fine of 2020 was handed to Rhino Construction & Building Services Limited, totalling more than £1.3m! The fine was issued after the firm pleaded guilty to failing to plan and carry out work at height in a safe manner. As a result of the company’s failures, one of their employees fell through a hole in the ground floor into the basement beneath, suffering grievous injuries.

According to HSE guidelines, “working at height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries.” Furthermore, “you must make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people with the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job.”

Workplace Accidents Training Presentation

Want to know more about Health & Safety?

As well as 50+ free compliance training aids, we regularly publish informative Health & Safety blogs. And, if you’re looking for a compliance training solution, why not visit our Health & Safety course library.

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

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