1. Please give us a brief overview of your role and experience?

I am a partner and criminal solicitor advocate, and lead Brodies' well regarded health and safety team. Having trained and then worked as a prosecutor at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, I have spent the last 21 years specialising in the defence of health and safety and other regulatory crime.

I am frequently instructed by clients to assist them if they are under investigation by the Heath and Safety Executive (HSE) and in need of expert legal advice to guide them through what can be a very daunting process. Those investigations arise where there has been a serious accident in the workplace but can also follow an unannounced inspection, should the HSE inspector consider there to be unsafe practices on the work site.

During the investigation, I am on hand to provide legal advice, advise the client on what they should be doing to co-operate with the HSE but also how to protect their own position – a delicate balancing act, and one clients can find hard to achieve when HSE and the police are on site! I assist with HSE and police interviews and will remain closely involved in the case should the matter result in a prosecution or Fatal Accident Inquiry.

As a criminal solicitor advocate I conduct my own advocacy, which means I am able to represent my clients in court, without the need to instruct Counsel, something not all lawyers can do. This benefits clients as they work with one person, over a period of years, someone who really knows and understands their business. Having worked as a prosecutor I am ideally placed to give strategic advice, being able to see a case 'from both sides'.

2. Do you work with the agriculture industry? If so, how do you support this sector?

Whilst I have worked with most sectors over my career, I have spent a lot of my time working with the agricultural sector, across all of Scotland, acting for a full range of agricultural businesses, from small family partnerships, to large estates.

From a non contentious perspective I am regularly asked to provide training and guidance on a client's incident management response as well as training to some larger organisations on leadership in good health and safety management.

Most of my work in this sector is on the contentious side. It is a well-known fact that agriculture remains the second most hazardous sector in the UK, after construction, accounting for just under 20% of all workplace deaths. I have represented many agricultural businesses over the years in criminal court proceedings and Fatal Accident Inquiries.,

Such accidents have a devastating effect on people and the business itself. Every single person is affected emotionally. There is also a financial impact as many hours are spent on the investigation, reputation is also potentially affected and needs to be carefully managed. Having worked in this sector for over two decades I am able to provide valuable insight and support at a business' time of need. I can't always make the process disappear but I can seek to ease the burden on the business by providing clear strategic legal advice to guide them through that process.

3. What are the most common agriculture/health and safety scenarios you tend to encounter?

Working in an agricultural setting, workers are naturally exposed to potentially dangerous machinery, chemicals and work at height. As a result when accidents happen they can have devastating consequences. The most common scenarios that I have encountered over the years are falls from height, be that through fragile roofs or from silos or trenches, and entrapment in machinery. Many of these, sadly, are fatal accidents.

One must not lose sight of the factors that may not lead to injury but can affect health, and I am seeing more cases involving exposure to dust, noise or chemicals impacting on employee health, resulting in enforcement action. It is an employer or self employed person's duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health as well as the safety of employees and others affected by the business and more attention is being placed on the former by HSE.

4. What are the top 3 tips/guiding principles/best bits of advice you can offer to clients in agriculture?

Good health and safety management is a must. Ensuring policies and procedures are suitable and sufficient for the purpose of the business will go a long way in minimising the risk of an incident arising or, where it does, demonstrating to the authorities that there were safe systems of work in place.

Having suitable and sufficient risk assessments in place covering all work activities is a good foundation. These should be rolled out to all relevant staff, and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they remain fit for purpose. Many accidents in an agricultural setting involve lone workers, that is people who work on their own without direct or close supervision. Make sure there is a lone working policy in place too, which manages the risks of those working alone.

Many accidents occur due to poor behaviours. By ensuing good health and safety management across the business this leads to a stronger culture of safety and, in turn, less risk taking, which will ensure a safer place to work for all.

My best advice is that should the worst happen, and the HSE attend your workplace, it is never too early to call your legal advisor to ensure you are properly protected going forward.


Clare Bone

Partner & Solicitor Advocate