Leniency For Corporate Complacency
Fines fall for companies who take risks with lives of employees
5th Nov 2003
Despite UK government assurances that companies whose complacency leads to the death or injury of its workers, average fines have now been revealed to have fallen significantly.
The Health and Safety Executive announced on Nov 5 that average fines for convictions of health and safety offences dropped by 21 per cent over the last year.
According to Mick Holder of the London Hazards Centre: "This is very bad news indeed. Employers are getting away with killing, disabling and injuring their workers at the expense of a paltry fine". Public pressure for more protection for employees rose dramatically after the death of Simon Jones in April 1998. With very little training Jones was given the dangerous job of unloading cargo inside a ship. Within hours of starting his first job at Shoreham Docks his head was all but severed by the grab of crane. A student from Sussex University, Simon Jones was a contributor to the alternative media journal, SchNEWS. A vigorous campaign was started by his family and friends campaigning for more protection for casual labourers. Via a series of direct actions, demonstrations and information dispersal, the Simon Jones Memorial Campaign succeeded in raising the profile of the issue on a national level.
The company who employed Simon Jones, Euromin, was cleared of manslaughter by a majority jury verdict in 2001 but the company was found guilty of two lesser charges of breaching health and safety regulations, and fined £50,000. In a critical judgment, Judge David Stokes said: "I regard the excuses put forward [by Euromin] as lamentable. The fact is that this company, between February 1997 and April 1998, failed to carry out any of the most important parts of its duty. The failure to do that was absolutely deplorable in my view. If it had been done, the death of this young man might have been avoided." In the year Simon Jones died (1998), 374 employees died at work in the UK. In the year Euromin were prosecuted (2001) this number had increased to 440. In the year 2001/2, the average fine levied on companies after conviction was £11,141. By 2002/3 this had fallen to £8,828.
However, government assurances that corporate complacency would be dealt with are failing to produce any progress and the latest figures reveal that even financial penalties are weakening.
"Many cases involving the death of a worker are still heard in the lower, Magistrates Court, which does not reflect the serious nature of the crime and restricts the fine to a maximum of £20,000", says London Hazards Centre Mick Holder. "Nothing will change until errant employers face real sanctions such as prison and much higher fines that reflect the seriousness of the crimes".
BOAT ROCKERS PUT DOCK CO IN DOCK AT LAST - Shoreham dock company responsible for workplace death of Simon Jones to be finally prosecuted for manslaughter - 08-Jan-2001