Not enforcing Health & Safety rules has consequences

The following “note of caution” to all employers appeared in Fenestration News. If true, it raises serious issues and concerns for employers about employee supervision from a Health & Safety point of view.

“Last week saw the first conviction for the crime of corporate manslaughter in the UK. Basically a worker was on site alone and got into an unsupported trench that had just been dug; the walls then collapsed killing the guy by suffocation. His company’s health & safety rule book explicitly forbids any one in the company from carrying out this type of operation i.e. getting into an unsupported trench. Never the less the Company and its Directors were found guilty. Sentencing is next week.

This is akin to a window installer on his own falling off a ladder that is without stabilisers or similar restraints. Going by the judgement it appears it doesn’t matter what your rule book says, it is what happens in practice and the consequences that are judged.” (Fenestration News – Thursday 17th February 2011)

Health and Safety is a big issue, as I regularly come across property owners, and more sadly double glazing installers who allegedly are prepared to allow replacement windows over 1st floor height fitted of ladders or from the inside. Not using the correct access equipment (i.e. a tower and/or scaffolding) puts the property owner, installers and members of the public at risk. We recently quoted for a job to replace windows on the 1st floor of a busy high street, where we were advised that all the other companies quoting said they could glaze from the inside (which is illegal). Thankfully, common sense prevailed and the landlord accepted our quotation along with the significant cost for the necessary scaffolding and all the correct permissions and licenses required for fitting replacement double glazing above shop windows.

Yes, Health & Safety costs more, but if property owners and/or window companies/tradesmen choose to break the law and try to save money by flouting Health & Safety rules, they will have to accept the consequences, which, as the example above, can be severe, even if the persons concerned are not directly responsible.


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