Peanut allergy breach

A restaurant worker has been fined for a peanut allergy breach.  The worker who served peanuts to a woman with a peanut allergy putting her in hospital on her 18th birthday was fined in court.

Eleanor Lincoln ate the takeaway, a chicken tikka masala, at home as part of a family birthday celebration. But very quickly she went into anaphylactic shock and had to be treated by her mum with adrenalin via an Epi pen before being taken to hospital by ambulance.

Doctors at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle had to administer Miss Lincoln, who was struggling to breathe, with steroids. She was kept in hospital overnight for observation but discharged the next day.

Newcastle City Council’s Environmental Health Team launched an investigation into the incident.

Inspectors found that when the order was made in March 2021, during lockdown in the pandemic, the family specifically asked for no peanuts, but staff missed the crucial information.  Peanut and almond protein were found in the meal.

The Council charged the food business operator, Samir Najeeb, of Khan’s Restaurant, Heaton Road, Newcastle, with two breaches, one under the Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations 2013 and one under the Food Safety Act 1990. He pleaded not guilty to both charges but was found guilty of the Food Hygiene Regulations charge. The charge under the Food Safety Act was dismissed by the court.

Najeeb was fined £450 with £3,000 in costs at Newcastle Magistrates Court.

Council cabinet member for a Dynamic City, Councillor Irim Ali, who has responsibility for regulation, said:

“People have died from food allergies and contaminated food from takeaways and restaurants.  I can’t emphasise enough the seriousness of this case. Thankfully Eleanor is fit and well now.  The case highlights the need for very strict management of food orders and great care needed when serving food. There is no room for complacency or error.  The public must be confident that businesses are safe and take no risk with their safety. We are committed to supporting businesses with training and help but will hold those to account that put lives at risk.”

Miss Lincoln has fully recovered from her ordeal and is now at university.

Peanut allergy breach
Photo by Eren Li

The case highlights the importance of food establishments having robust food safety management systems in place and staff being trained in allergen management.

It also underlines the importance of understanding customer requests for allergen free meals, the general importance of allergen awareness to food operators and customers.

An estimated 1-2% of adults and 5-8% of children in the UK have a food allergy which is around 2 million people.  Nut allergies affect approximately 1 in 50 children and around 1 in 200 adults in the UK.

In September 2021, a joint health promotion programme was undertaken with both Newcastle and Northumbria Universities and North East Ambulance Service, aimed at new students coming to live in the city and visiting the city’s many and varied food establishments.  The promotional event urged takeaway lovers to be more allergy aware.

Allergy Awareness Top Tips

The majority of the allergy reports relate to 17 to 30-year-olds ordering takeaways or food in bars and nightclubs, and so organisations are working together to offer top tips to students to keep themselves and others safe:

  • Be allergy aware – Find out if anyone in the group you are ordering for has a food allergy.
  • Speak to the restaurant every time – If ordering by app, do not rely on the in-app messaging service. Call the restaurant directly and make sure they understand the allergy. Remember to ask, even when ordering the usual, because the recipe, ingredients, chef or kitchen staff may have changed.
  • Be clear – Give examples of food that could cause a reaction and be clear about the allergy.
  • Ask the restaurant to label the allergy-safe meal – Make sure the container will be labelled so that it is clear when the meal arrives and there is no risk of cross-contamination.
  • Follow your instincts – If the person you are ordering from does not understand the allergy or intolerance, ask to speak to the manager. If you still do not feel confident, consider ordering elsewhere.
  • Do not feel embarrassed – There is no need to feel awkward asking about an allergy. Food business are legally required to make allergen information available when you order and when the food is delivered.

Allergy Guidance

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) publishes guidance for food businesses on allergy safeguards and controls.

Food business operators in the retail and catering sector are required to provide allergen information and follow labelling rules as set out in food law (Opens in a new window).

This means that food business operators must:

  • provide allergen information to the consumer for both prepacked and non-prepacked food and drink
  • handle and manage food allergens effectively in food preparation.

Food businesses must make sure that staff receive training on allergens. Staff can complete the FSA’s free food allergy training. Managers can also share the FSA’s allergen checklist with staff for tips on food allergy best-practice.

The FSA also has separate guidance for food manufacturers and institutional caterers such as schools and care homes.


Food businesses need to tell customers if any food they provide contain any of the listed allergens as an ingredient.

Consumers may be allergic or have intolerance to other ingredients, but only the 14 allergens are required to be declared as allergens by food law.

The 14 allergens are:

  • celery
  • cereals containing gluten (such as barley and oats)
  • crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters)
  • eggs
  • fish
  • lupin
  • milk
  • molluscs (such as mussels and oysters)
  • mustard
  • peanuts
  • sesame
  • soybeans
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if the sulphur dioxide and sulphites are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million) and
  • tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts).

This also applies to additives, processing aids and any other substances which are present in the final product.

Allergen labelling

There are a number of ways in which allergen information can be provided to your customers. You will need to choose the method which is best for your business and the type of food you serve.

Prepacked foods refer to any food put into packaging before being placed on sale, while non-prepacked food (loose food) is unpackaged food. Different allergen labelling rules apply depending on how the food is provided.

The FSA has published technical guidance which provides a detailed explanation of the labelling requirements for each food type.

If your business needs food safety advice, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

Food Law Code consultation

On 17 October 2022, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) launched a 12-week Food Law Code consultation. The consultation is seeking views from local authorities (LA), food business operators, unions and interested groups on the proposed changes to the Food Law Code of Practice in England.

The proposals involve fundamental changes to the food standards delivery model within the Code, and associated content, namely the introduction of a:

  • new food standards risk rating scheme that LA officers will use to evaluate the risk posed by a food business
  • new decision matrix to determine the frequency at which food standards official controls should be delivered in line with the outcome of the risk assessment 

Local authorities follow the Code when carrying out official food controls. The Code requires regular review and revision to ensure that it reflects current priorities, policy, and legislative requirements so that the local authority delivery of official food controls remain effective, consistent, and appropriate.

Food Law Code consultation
Changes proposed for Food Law Code of Practice in England

The changes that the FSA are proposing will introduce a new food standards delivery model. The new model will allow local authorities to have flexibility to use any of the official control methods and techniques available and direct local authority resource to where it is most needed to tackle risk in the food chain.

“The Food Law Code of Practice enables us to ensure food is safe and what it says it is. The proposed amendments to the Code will enable local authorities to manage resources more effectively, by prioritising their activities on food businesses that pose the highest risk to public health and consumers.

“As part of the consultation process, we are planning a series of local authority engagement events to discuss the new model and the changes that are being proposed. The consultation ends on 9 January 2023, so we would encourage all those who have an interest in this to respond over the next 12 weeks.”

Michael Jackson, Head of Regulatory Compliance Division (FSA)

The consultation page is available on the FSA website, where you can also find out about the Food Law Code of Practice. All comments and views should be included in the consultation response form and sent to:

The consultation will close at midnight on 9 January 2023.

If you require food safety advice or support for your business, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

£1.2m fine for water company

£1.2m fine for water company, Anglian Water following Environment Agency prosecution. Anglian Water has been hit with fines totalling £1,221,000 after it admitted to causing pollution incidents in two separate court cases this week.

The water company was ordered to pay £871,000 after a catalogue of system and maintenance failures caused several incidents of pollution across Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire, and Northamptonshire across a five-month spell, between May and September 2019.

The list of process failures included reporting delays, faulty screening and a general breakdown in planning and maintenance, all of which caused damaging blockages and pollution. After one particular incident, a subsequent biological survey showed dead aquatic invertebrates for 1,500 metres. The court also heard how at one site an unchecked build-up of ‘unflushables’ such as cotton buds and sanitary pads caused a blockage resulting in discharge of settled sludge into the treated sewage.

The site was originally fitted with a screen to prevent blockages in the process but was removed in 2018. The court heard that increased cleaning had not taken place and no steps taken to reduce the risk of blockages caused by the removal of the screen.

The water company was also ordered to pay £37,605.13 in costs at Loughborough Magistrates Court on 12 September 2022.

£1.2m fine for water company
Big fines for water companies causing pollution

In a separate court case, heard at Cambridge Magistrates Court, Anglian Water was sentenced to pay £350,000 after a pumped sewer at Bourn Brook at Caldecott, Cambridgeshire, burst for the sixth time in several years. Officers visiting the site in September 2019 found ammonia and low oxygen levels in the water, posing a potential risk to wildlife at the site. Despite efforts from Anglian Water to stop the polluted water from spreading, its methods proved insufficient and a total of 4km of the watercourse was affected for at least five days.

Since 2004 the sewer, which is only 1.5km long, had burst 6 times. The court found that Anglian Water had been too slow in putting in place potential mitigation measures. They only located air valves, designed to reduce stress on the sewer, after the incident took place. These valves had been in place for at least 25 years.

Anglian Water pleaded guilty to causing poisonous, noxious, or polluting matter to enter inland freshwaters without an environmental permit, and were told to pay £28,025.66 in costs as well as a victim surcharge of £181.

“Serious pollution is a serious crime and I welcome these sentences from the courts.

“The Environment Agency will pursue any water company that fails to uphold the law or protect nature, and will continue to press for the strongest possible penalties for those which do not.”

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency

If you require environmental advice or support for your business, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

Vehicle injured guard

Vehicle injured guard which has resulted in a meat production company being fined £440,000. The security guard at an abattoir was seriously injured by a vehicle passing through the site gate.

The 63-year-old security guard, who was working for an independent security company, was on duty at the gated entrance of the Dunbia (UK) abattoir at Hatherleigh, near Okehampton, Devon early on the morning of November 29, 2018.

Her duties included operating the gates to allow delivery vehicles to enter and exit the site. She sustained serious leg and head injuries requiring surgery when she was hit by a vehicle towing a trailer leaving the site. She was holding the gate open at the time.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the system of work was unsafe and that the company’s risk assessments did not extend to the security guards. Risks had not been adequately assessed or controlled.

Although there was a high volume of vehicle movements on site there was no segregation between the vehicle routes and pedestrians on site.

Dunbia (UK), of Castle Street, Exeter, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. the company was fined £440,000 and ordered to pay costs of £27,016 and a victim surcharge of £170 at Plymouth Magistrates Court on 12 October 2022.

“Employers have a legal duty to ensure that the health and safety of their employees, contractors and members of the public are not put at risk.

“This incident could have been avoided had the company assessed the risks from vehicle movements and implemented safety measures including segregating vehicles and pedestrians.”

HSE inspector Victoria Buchanan

Vehicle injured guard
Does your workplace transport keep pedestrians safe?

Vehicle Safety

When considering the risks from vehicle manoeuvring, employers must ensure that vehicles have large enough windscreens (with wipers where necessary) and external mirrors to provide an all-round field of vision.  It is often worthwhile adding extra mirrors to reduce blind spots for drivers. Side mirrors can allow drivers of larger vehicles to see cyclists and pedestrians alongside their vehicles and can be effective in improving visibility around the vehicle from the driving position. These mirrors are fitted to larger road-going vehicles as standard.

Drivers should not place items in the windscreen area or in the way of mirrors or monitors, where they might impede visibility from the driving position. The area of the windscreen that is kept clear by the wipers should not be obscured, and nor should the side windows. Windows and mirrors will also normally need to be kept clean and in good repair. Dirt or cracks can make windows or mirrors less effective.

Some types of vehicles (such as straddle carriers, large shovel loaders and some large quarry vehicles) often have poor visibility from the cab. Visibility can be poor to the side or front of a vehicle as well as behind and loads on vehicles can severely limit the visibility from the driving position.

Lift trucks and compact dumper vehicles in particular can have difficulty with forward visibility when they are transporting bulky loads. Employers should recognise these risks in their risk assessment and think about ways to minimise them.

Vehicle CCTV

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) may help drivers to see clearly behind or around the vehicle. CCTV can cover most blind spots and the cost of fitting CCTV systems has fallen since the technology was first developed. Companies who have fitted CCTV have found that it can reduce the number of reversing accidents, so the systems usually pay for themselves in a few years.

Colour systems can provide a clearer image where there is little contrast (for example, outside on an overcast day). However, black-and-white systems normally provide a better image in lower light or darkness, and usually come with infra-red, which can be more effective than standard cameras at night.

Monitors should have adjustable contrast, brightness and resolution controls to make them useful in the different light conditions in which they will be used. Drivers may need to use a hood to shield any monitor from glare.

If possible, fit the camera for a CCTV system high up in the middle of the vehicle’s rear (one camera), or in the upper corners (two cameras). This will provide a greater field of vision and a better angle for the driver to judge distance and provide. It also keeps the camera clear of dust and spray, and out of the reach of thieves or vandals.

However, CCTV systems do have some limitations which employers should consider:

  • If the vehicle leaves a darker area to a more strongly lit area (for example, driving out of a building) the system may need time to adjust to the brightness.
  • A dirty lens will make a camera much less effective.
  • Drivers may find it difficult to judge heights and distances.

Drivers should not be complacent about safety even with CCTV systems installed. They should be trained in proper use of the equipment and employers have a duty to provide such training and instruction.

Vehicles Reversing

Reversing alarms may be drowned out by other noise or may be so common on a busy site that pedestrians do not take any notice. It can also be hard to know exactly where an alarm is coming from, and people who are less able to hear are also at greater risk. Alarms can also disturb nearby residents.  However, reversing alarms may be appropriate (based on the risk assessment) but might be most effectively used with other measures, such as warning lights.

Additional advice on transport safety can be found in the HSE Guide to workplace transport safety (HSG 136, 2014) which is available free on the website.

If you require health and safety advice or support for your business, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

Bernard Mathews worker paralysed

A Bernard Matthews worker paralysed in an accident has resulted in the company being prosecuted.  Bernard Mathew’s Food Ltd has been fined £400,000 following two separate incidents where employees were seriously injured.

Colin Frewin was left permanently paralysed and spent six months in hospital following an incident at the company’s Suffolk manufacturing plant.

Mr Frewin suffered multiple serious injuries, including a pierced left lung, several broken ribs, four fractured vertebrae and a spinal bleed. He was put in an induced coma for three weeks and is now classed as a T6 paraplegic and has been diagnosed with autonomic dysreflexia (AD).

Chelmsford Crown Court heard how 54-year-old Mr Frewin suffered the injuries on 28 January 2020. He had been tasked with cleaning a large screw conveyor used to move poultry turkeys along and chill them. While working on the gantry between the spin chillers he noticed a turkey stuck at the bottom of it.

As he attempted to dislodge the turkey using a squeegee, Mr Frewin was drawn into the machine. It was only when a colleague noticed Mr Frewin was missing from the gantry and heard his cries for help, the emergency stop was pulled.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found an unsafe system of work meant the chillers remained running as Mr Frewin went to dislodge the turkey.

In a victim personal statement, Mr Frewin described how his horrific injuries left him feeling “isolated” and in need of daily care.

“I will never walk again and so I will be in a wheelchair permanently.  I now have a suprapubic catheter, which was inserted via an operation.  The district nurse has to give me bowel care every day and visits me daily at home.  I also suffer from AD – a condition which is life threatening, as my body doesn’t register if I’m ill.  I have moved from my flat overlooking the sea, to a bungalow.  However, I miss seeing the sea and being close to the seafront and all the amenities. I feel isolated as I cannot go out when I want as I need people to assist me.  The accident has affected my life and my family’s lives.  When I talk about the incident, I sometimes find this upsetting and then have restless nights.”

There was another incident at the same plant five months earlier, on 12 August 2019, when a turkey deboning line had to be shut down after developing a fault.

As a result, 34-year-old Mr Adriano Gama, along with the rest of the employees, were moved to a surplus production line to continue the process.

Whilst working on the surplus production line, one of the wings became stuck in the belt under the machine. Mr Gama attempted to push it out of the way, but as he did do, his gloved hand became caught in the exposed sprocket of the conveyer and was drawn into the machine.

He was eventually freed and taken to hospital having suffered a broken arm and severe damage to the muscles in his forearm.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that on the day of the incident pre-start checks were only completed on the production lines that were regularly used.

Therefore, when workers were asked to move to the surplus deboning line there was no system in place to ensure that it was checked prior to it being put into operation.

The investigation uncovered that two safety guards had been removed and a team leader responsible for the production lines had verbally reported this issue to the engineering team, but it was not followed up by either party.

Bernard Mathews Prosecution

Bernard Matthews Food Ltd of Sparrowhawk Road, Halesworth in Suffolk pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,000.

“Both incidents could have been avoided – the consequences were devastating for Mr Frewin in particular.

“If Bernard Matthews had acted to identify and manage the risks involved and put a safe system of work in place they could have easily been prevented.

“Fundamentally, you should not clean a machine while it is running.

“Companies need to ensure that risk assessments cover activities including cleaning and blockages, and that where appropriate, robust isolation and lock off mechanisms are in place for these activities.

“Prior to use you can put in place some pre-start checks and if faults such as missing guards are identified they need to be formally reported, tracked, rectified and closed out.”

HSE Principal Inspector Adam Hills

Bernard Mathews worker paralysed
Do you provide suitable equipment to your workers?

Worker Equipment

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, often abbreviated to PUWER, place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over work equipment. PUWER also places responsibilities on businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, whether owned by them or not.  PUWER requires that equipment provided for use at work is:

  • suitable for the intended use
  • safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure it is correctly installed and does not subsequently deteriorate
  • used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training
  • accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, such as protective devices and controls. These will normally include guarding, emergency stop devices, adequate means of isolation from sources of energy, clearly visible markings and warning devices
  • used in accordance with specific requirements, for mobile work equipment and power presses

Some work equipment is subject to other health and safety legislation in addition to PUWER. For example, lifting equipment must also meet the requirements of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), pressure equipment must meet the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 and personal protective equipment must meet the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (PPE).

If your business or organisation uses work equipment or is involved in providing work equipment for others to use (e.g. for hire), you must manage the risks from that equipment. This means you must:

  • ensure the equipment is constructed or adapted to be suitable for the purpose it is used or provided for
  • take account of the working conditions and health and safety risks in the workplace when selecting work equipment
  • ensure work equipment is only used for suitable purposes
  • ensure work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair
  • where a machine has a maintenance log, keep this up to date
  • where the safety of work equipment depends on the manner of installation, it must be inspected after installation and before being put into use
  • where work equipment is exposed to deteriorating conditions liable to result in dangerous situations, it must be inspected to ensure faults are detected in good time so the risk to health and safety is managed
  • ensure that all people using, supervising or managing the use of work equipment are provided with adequate, clear health and safety information. This will include, where necessary, written instructions on its use and suitable equipment markings and warnings
  • ensure that all people who use, supervise or manage the use of work equipment have received adequate training, which should include the correct use of the equipment, the risks that may arise from its use and the precautions to take
  • where the use of work equipment is likely to involve a specific risk to health and safety (eg woodworking machinery), ensure that the use of the equipment is restricted to those people trained and appointed to use it
  • take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. This will normally be by fixed guarding but where routine access is needed, interlocked guards (sometimes with guard locking) may be needed to stop the movement of dangerous parts before a person can reach the danger zone. Where this is not possible, such as with the blade of a circular saw, it must be protected as far as possible and a safe system of work used. These protective measures should follow the hierarchy laid down in PUWER regulation 11(2) and the PUWER Approved Code of Practice and guidance or, for woodworking machinery, the Safe use of woodworking machinery: Approved Code of Practice and guidance
  • take measures to prevent or control the risks to people from parts and substances falling or being ejected from work equipment, or the rupture or disintegration of work equipment
  • ensure that the risks from very hot or cold temperatures from the work equipment or the material being processed or used are managed to prevent injury
  • ensure that work equipment is provided with appropriately identified controls for starting, stopping and controlling it, and that these control systems are safe
  • where appropriate, provide suitable means of isolating work equipment from all power sources (including electric, hydraulic, pneumatic and gravitational energy)
  • ensure work equipment is stabilised by clamping or otherwise to avoid injury
  • take appropriate measures to ensure maintenance operations on work equipment can be carried out safely while the equipment is shut down, without exposing people undertaking maintenance operations to risks to their health and safety

New Equipment for Workers

When providing new work equipment for use at work, you must ensure it conforms with the essential requirements of any relevant product supply law (for new machinery this means the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008). You must check it:

  • has appropriate conformity marking and is labelled with the manufacturer’s details 
  • comes with a Declaration of Conformity
  • is provided with instructions in English
  • is free from obvious defects – and that it remains so during its working life

If you require advice on health and safety in your workplace, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

Bonfire prosecution

A bonfire prosecution of a Kent groundwork contractor has resulted in the company being fined. A petrol fire resulted in injuries to an employee when petrol was thrown on a bonfire.

On 24 June 2020, a 26-year-old groundworker employed by Kent County Surfacing Limited was working on a new residential development in Ramsgate, Kent when a co-worker used petrol on a bonfire. The groundworker was unaware of this and after he was instructed to light the bonfire, it engulfed him in flames as the petrol vapour ignited. The worker suffered serious burns and underwent two skin graft operations to his left hand, left arm, left side of torso and both his legs.

Groundworkers help prepare a construction site and ensure it is ready for the structural work to start.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to appropriately supervise their operatives and failed to provide them with the appropriate information and instruction, so far as is reasonably practicable to ensure work was carried out without risks to health or safety.

Bonfire prosecution
Does your workplace have fire safety precautions in place?

At Folkestone Magistrates on 10 October, Kent County Surfacing Ltd of 7 Mariners View, Deal, Kent, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 15 (8) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015. They were fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,333.42.

“The operative’s injuries are life changing and could have easily been fatal.

“This serious incident and devastation should have been avoided if those in control of the work provided the appropriate supervision, information and instructions to their workers.”

HSE inspector Ross Carter

If you require advice on health and safety in your workplace, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

Uninsured employer prosecuted

An uninsured employer prosecuted for failing to have appropriate insurance in place has been fined by Luton Magistrates Court. 

Exclusive Oriental Classics Ltd and its director, Mr Kian Hoo Tay, appeared at Luton Magistrates Court on 10 October for failing to have Employers’ Liability (Compulsory) Insurance (ELCI).

The court heard an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered the failure when one of the company’s employees was injured at work on 1 March 2022.

Exclusive Oriental Classics Ltd and Mr Hoo Tay had failed to renew the insurance policy that expired on 13 May 2021.


Exclusive Oriental Classics Ltd, of Bellfield Avenue, Harrow, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 1(1) of the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory) Insurance Act 1969, fined £1,650, a victim surcharge of £165 and ordered to pay costs of £1750.

The Director, Mr Kian Hoo Tay, of same address pleaded guilty to breaching Section 1(1) of the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory) Insurance Act 1969, fined £1,650, a victim surcharge of £165 and ordered to pay costs of £1750.

“Every employer needs to ensure that they have Employers’ Liability (Compulsory) Insurance in place to ensure against liability for injury or disease to their employees arising out of their employment.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards”.

HSE inspector Emma Page

Uninsured employer prosecuted
Do you have insurance for your business?

Employer Liability Insurance

Most employers are required by the law to insure against liability for injury or disease to their employees arising out of their employment.  The Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 requires your employer to have at least a minimum level of insurance against any such claims.  Employers’ liability insurance will cover relevant work injuries or illness whether these are caused on or off site. However, any injuries or illness relating to motor accidents which occur while you are at work may be covered separately by the employer’s motor insurance.

Public liability insurance is different. It covers employers for claims made against them by members of the public or other businesses, but not for claims by employees. While public liability insurance is generally voluntary, employers’ liability insurance is compulsory. Employers can be fined if they do not hold a current employers’ liability insurance policy which complies with the law.  Employers must display a copy of this certificate where employees have reasonable access to it. If they do not, they can be fined.  Since 1 October 2008, employers have been allowed to satisfy this requirement by displaying the certificate electronically for example on the company’s intranet or website. If your employer chooses this method, they must ensure that you know how and where to find the certificate and you have reasonable access to it. If you require advice on health and safety in your workplace, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

Work at Height

A refrigeration company has been fined £27,000 after an incident where a worker suffered gantry fall injuries while carrying out work at height.

GEA Refrigeration UK Ltd was replacing a cooler unit located on a gantry 10m above the warehouse floor at an Iceland depot in Swindon on 1 February 2017.

work at height
Stock image

This required a section of the gantry floor to be removed. A GEA employee fell 2.5 metres through the gap created by this removal and on to a cherry picker, suffering fractured ribs and internal injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to properly plan, co-ordinate and supervise the work, including the removal of the gantry floor to ensure the work was carried out in a safe manner to control the risks of falls.

GEA Refrigeration UK Ltd, of Ludgate Hill, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and was fined £27,000 and ordered to pay £35,000 costs and a victim surcharge of £170 at Bristol Crown Court on 30 September 2022.

“This incident could have been avoided by identifying and implementing effective control measures and safe working practices.

“Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related injury and fatalities and the risks associated with working at height are well known.”

HSE inspector Leo Diez

In his victim personal statement, the injured worker said: “The effect of the accident on my personal and work life has been huge and has had a lasting effect.”

Work at Height Regulations

Falls from height are one of the biggest causes of workplace fatalities and major injuries. Common causes are falls from ladders and through fragile roofs. The purpose of The Work at Height Regulations 2005 is to prevent death and injury caused by a fall from height. If you are an employer or you control work at height (for example facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height) the Regulations apply to you.

Employers and those in control of any work at height activity must make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people. This includes using the right type of equipment for working at height. Low-risk, relatively straightforward tasks will require less effort when it comes to planning.  Employers and those in control must first assess the risks by carrying out a risk assessment.  Where you employ 5 or more employees, your risk assessment must be in writing.

Employees have general legal duties to take reasonable care of themselves and others who may be affected by their actions, and to co-operate with their employer to enable their health and safety duties and requirements to be complied with.

Work at Height Guidance

Work at height means work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. For example, you are working at height if you:

  • are working on a ladder or a flat roof;
  • could fall through a fragile surface;
  • could fall into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground.

Take a sensible approach when considering precautions for work at height. There may be some low-risk situations where common sense tells you no particular precautions are necessary and the law recognises this.

There is a common misconception that ladders, and stepladders are banned, but this is not the case. There are many situations where a ladder is the most suitable equipment for working at height.  Before working at height, you must work through these simple steps:

  • avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so;
  • where work at height cannot be avoided, prevent falls using either an existing place of work that is already safe or the right type of equipment;
  • minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated.

You should:

  1. do as much work as possible from the ground;
  2. ensure workers can get safely to and from where they work at height;
  3. ensure equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job, maintained and checked regularly;
  4. make sure you don’t overload or overreach when working at height;
  5. take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces;
  6. provide protection from falling objects;
  7. consider your emergency evacuation and rescue procedures.

If you need health, safety and environmental advice for your business, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

Radiation breach prosecution

Our consultants consider a recent radiation breach prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).  A company which provides diagnostic imaging services, and its radiopharmaceutical subsidiary company, have been given six-figure fines following incidents at two sites in which employees were exposed to radiation levels in excess of the legal annual dose limit.

Radiation Exposure

On 25 March 2019, a vial of a radioactive substance (FDG) leaked after it was installed into a shielded dispensing pot in the dispensing laboratory of Alliance Medical Limited’s (AML) Positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) facility at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds.

Radiation breach prosecution
Stock image

This resulted in two members of staff becoming contaminated with skin doses in excess of the annual dose limit as defined by the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017.

In a second incident, on 15 November 2019, the same radioactive substance was unknowingly handled during the production process at the Alliance Medical Radiopharmacy Limited (AMRL) facility at Keele University Science Park in Staffordshire.

Consequently, a member of staff was contaminated with a skin dose in excess of the annual dose limit as defined by the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017.

An investigation by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident at the AML Leeds PET-CT centre found that training and instruction was inadequate and supervision below an acceptable standard.

Staff were not made fully aware of the localised instructions and were using personal protective equipment (PPE) unsuitable for work with radioactive material.

Further radiation incident

A separate investigation by HSE found that at AMRL’s facility at Keele University Science Park, the radiation warning system associated with the particular production equipment was not operational at the time of the incident and had not undergone routine maintenance and testing at suitable intervals.

Radiation prosecution

Alliance Medical Limited, based at Iceni Centre, Warwick Technology Park, Warwick, Warwickshire pleaded guilty to breaches of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017, Regulations 12, 18(3), 18(4) and 18(5)a, and were fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,382 at Leeds Magistrates’ Court on 29 September 2022.

Alliance Medical Radiopharmacy Limited, also based at Iceni Centre, Warwick Technology Park, Warwick, Warwickshire pleaded guilty to breaches of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017, Regulations 9(2)a, 11(1) and 12, and were fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,382 in the same court on the same date.

“The workers in both these incidents were exposed to levels of radiation which could potentially impact on their health in the future.

“Employers in the nuclear medicine sector must properly assess the risks to their employees and others and ensure all radiation doses are as low as reasonably practicable.

“Both these incidents could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out the correct control measures and ensuring safe working practices were followed. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement actions against those that fall below the required standards.”

HSE specialist inspector Elizabeth Reeves

The HSE has published an approved code of practice and guidance for Working with ionising radiation (L121) which is free to download.

If you require health, safety and environmental advice for your business, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.