The former UK Coal mining company has been heavily fined by the Leeds Magistrates’ Court after a series of health and safety failings led to the death of a miner in 2011.
On 21 September 2011 there was a roof collapse in one of the mines at the Kellingley colliery, a colliery operated by the UK Coal Mining Company, because the powered roof support failed. No-one was injured in this collapse. However, no investigation was undertaken by the managers of the mine into the failure of the roof support and little was done to ensure that such an accident didn’t happen again. On 27 September 2011 there was another collapse of the roof support in the same mine at the Kellingley colliery caused, again, by the failure of the powered roof support. This time workers were caught in the collapse, with Mr Gerry Gibson, a miner, crushed beneath fifteen tonnes of rock. Mr Gibson died as a result of asphyxiation. A second miner, Mr Philip Sheldon, was rescued after being trapped at the edge of the collapse and allowed home after hospital treatment. It is not currently known whether Mr Sheldon has attempted to claim personal injury against the company for his injuries.
The accident was notified to the Health and Safety Executive and an investigation was commenced into the circumstances of the collapse. The Health and Safety Executive investigation found the following:
- There was a failure to investigate the collapse of the roof support the week before
- Insufficient precautions were taken to prevent the roof from collapsing again
- The company had failed to improve monitoring of the roof support to be able to pick up potential problems
- There was a failure to make workers aware of the potential dangers of the mine; and
- There was a failure to implement suitable procedures to ensure that no-one was in the area when the roof support was in operation
The Health and Safety Executive subsequently recommended that the company be prosecuted for failing to comply with health and safety regulations.
The case came before the Leeds Magistrates’ Court on 22 October 2013. Juniper (no.3) Limited, the name given to the company after UK Coal Mining Ltd went into administration this year, pleaded guilt to a breach of s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £200,000 as a result. No costs were awarded against the company as it was accepted that the awarding of such may jeopardise potential payments to the Miners’ Pensioners’ coal allowance scheme.
Neither the company nor its criminal defence solicitors appear to have commented after the sentencing.
HSE Mines Inspector Mr John Whyatt stated after the sentencing: “HSE sought to prosecute despite UK Coal Mining Ltd being in administration. The importance of securing justice for Mrs Gibson cannot be overstated. There was significant public interest in a very serious offence and the company’s standard of managing health and safety was far below what was required.”
Redmans Solicitors are employment solicitors in Richmond, London