A forge in Sheffield has been heavily fined and ordered to pay substantial costs after a worker died in an accident at work in May 2008.
Sheffield Forgemasters Steel Ltd was fined and ordered to pay costs amounting cumulatively to approximately £250,000 after it pleaded guilty at the Crown Court to breaching health and safety legislation, leading to the death of a worker.
Mr Brian Wilkins, 48, worked for Sheffield Forgemasters as a labourer until the accident occurred on 30 May 2008. On the day in question Mr Wilkins was cutting cables at the firm’s South Yorkshire foundry. After he finshed cutting the cables in an electrical drawpit, he descended into a switchroom cellar to carry out the rest of his job. This cellar was only accessible through climbing down a ladder through a manhole cover. Later in the day colleagues of Mr Wilkins heard the carbon monoxide alarm sounding and rushed to his aid. However, they were unable to help him as the carbon monoxide fumes proved too much for them and they were unable to access the cellar. Mr Wilkins’ body was later retrieved from the cellar using slings but was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Health and Safety Executive was notified of the accident and sought to investigate. Their investigations found that the firm had failed to provide any rescue equipment for the cellar or drawpit and that it had failed to provide a safe system of work for workers working in the cellar, among other things. The HSE therefore recommended a prosecution of the firm.
The case came to the Sheffield Crown Court on 19 December 2013. Sheffield Forgemasters Steel Limited pleaded guilty to a breach of s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (for failing to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure there was no risk to the health, safety or welfare of its employees) and, as a result, it was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay the prosecution’s costs amounting to £125,000.
Neither the company nor its criminal defence lawyers appear to have commented on the case since the sentencing.
HSE inspector Jill Thompson stated after the sentencing: “Sheffield Forgemasters had given no thought to the risks associated with the task being undertaken by Mr Wilkins, nor had they provided emergency rescue equipment. This case shows how important it is for companies to effectively risk assess work activities, looking at how the work will be carried out and in what circumstances.”
Please note that Redmans Solicitors were not associated in any way with this case