Lion Steel Equipment Ltd of Manchester has become the third company now successfully convicted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The company was sentenced on 20th July and ordered to pay a fine of £480,000 and costs of £84,000. The company had entered a guilty plea.
The conviction came as a result of an employee death in 2008, after falling from a roof. The court heard that the man was carrying out renovations and internal decoration work at the company site; during which he noticed water dripping from the roof. The following day he went to investigate and when moving back to exit the roof he fell through a skylight (it is thought he took a shortcut back to the door he had gained entry through); landing 13 metres below and suffering fatal injuries.
The prosecution had put forward that Lion Steel had not put in place suitable arrangements for working on the roof nor had it trained the man in roof working or provided any protective equipment. The defence however identified that the company had operated from the site for 50 years and had never had an accident involving roof work; nor had the company been prosecuted for any health & safety offence. It was accepted that the company had since made significant improvements in its health & safety systems.
The judge in setting the fine took account of the company entering its guilty plea and reduced the fine by 20%; which would have otherwise been £600,000. The company was ordered to pay the fine over four instalments; to be paid off by September 2015.
It is being seen that this case is the first real example of the size of fines courts are likely to impose on companies with a reasonable turnover and profits. The company falls into the SME range as it employs 142 people; so is by no means a large company. This really should serve as a warning to other businesses as to the impact of a workplace fatality and the importance of having robust health & safety systems in place. As mentioned this was a company that appears to have had a good health & safety record; yet it was found that controls were missing which resulted in this death. It’s worth thinking about whether this could happen in your business?