Liability of Directors and, in fatal cases, Senior Management, has been a hot topic in recent years, but what about employees? The prosecution of Philip Dutton, Health & Safety Manager of South Essex Stockholders Limited, has been a useful reminder of other employees’ liabilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Mr Dutton was tasked with compacting the waste contents of a skip. He decided to burn the waste and poured a can of surface cleaner into the flames to accelerate the process. Perhaps unsurprisingly this did not go well and the can exploded, showering him with the burning liquid. The outcome – severe burns and a 4 month stay in hospital.
Mr Dutton was recently convicted by Chelmsford County Court under Section 7 of the HSWA. The outcome – a 4 month prison sentence. His sentence was suspended for 2 years, likely because he had suffered enough as a result of his actions. His employers were also convicted under Section 2.
Section 7 of the HSWA provides that it is the duty of every employee at work to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and others who may be affected by his acts. A custodial sentence is rarely imposed but, as Mr Dutton found out, this is an option open to the Court. The aggravating factors in this case were that Mr Dutton was a Health & Safety Manager (and ought to have known better) and that junior colleagues were nearby who could also have been injured.
Should you wish to discuss any aspect of criminal liability of Directors and employees, please contact us.
On April 20, 2011