Looking at the recent HSE prosecutions we are amazed how it is that large well known companies get health and safety so wrong. A recent case resulted in Nestle being fined £180,000 after a fatal accident at one of its plants.
The court heard how the company failed to implement the most basic of safety measures. The HSE investigation identified the company’s safety breaches were compounded by the fact Nestle had received written advice about improving guarding – six years earlier.
The fatal accident occurred because the man had been inside a conveyor-type machine trying to fix a problem when a colleague restarted the machine; not realising he was inside. The HSE investigation found that a safety key device to halt the machine was available but Nestle failed to ensure its employees were aware of its purpose and how to use it correctly.
As well as the £180,000 fine the company was ordered to pay court costs of £42,000.
Evidence from the HSE suggests that in the last five years there have been 44 serious accidents, including a previous fatality, and two dangerous occurrences involving machines of this type.
So why is it that a company the size of Nestle could miss such an obvious risk given the previous warning and the history of this type of equipment we have to ask?
We regularly see situations where companies see a previous good health and safety record as meaning that they have risks under control, but after scratching beneath the surface what they actually rely on is more luck than good judgement.
We carry out expert PUWER risk assessments for companies all across the U.K. and in most instances see a failure to properly control machinery risks. The problem is that if these risks are not controlled effectively the results are often life-changing and very expensive.