There are over 60,000 cable strikes every year, with electricity causing the most significant injuries to workers. Significant fines can be imposed on employers who do not ensure the health and safety of their workers – only last week, Medpharma was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 in prosecution costs following a cable strike that left a worker with such serious injuries that he is now registered disabled.
However, what happens if an employer discharges its duties? When will HSE start to look at an individual's responsibilities to ensure their own safety – and that of their colleagues?
On Friday 13 November, Clyde & Co LLP staged a 'mock trial' led by partners Kirsty Gomersal, James Thompson and Gilles Graham which highlighted the potential consequences for an employee who failed to follow his employer's procedures designed to ensure safe excavations.
The engaging and thought provoking event allowed attendees to sit as a juror at the trial of an employee prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act, posing questions such as 'is it reasonable to rely on a colleague's assurances rather than follow a company's procedures?'. The event also covered other vital messages such as HSE guidance on safe excavations, HSE enforcement policy and information exchange between parties.
The event also outlined the new Definitive Guidance on Sentencing of Health and Safety offences which takes effect from February 2016.
Supported by Subscan Technology Limited, CECA and ICE, the event was staged at London City Hall. Jurors saw a 'snapshot' of evidence from witnesses for both the prosecution and the defence as an employee has to face the consequences of his actions and inactions. Following summing up from the Judge, the 'jurors' cast their votes to determine guilt – as well as determining sentence.
Kirsty Gomersal, Partner at Clyde & Co LLP, said: "All employees need to be aware that they have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety – and also the health and safety of those who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work. The idea behind the mock trial scenario was to show what an individual employee could go through if he or she does not follow an employers' prescribed safety processes.
The trial highlighted how a case against an employee could be presented and what level of punishment could be expected if found guilty. There can be no tougher jury than one composed of one's peers – and that proved to be the case for our "Defendant" – ably played by James Lewis of Subscan – given some of the comments!"