It is only a matter of time before reports of enforcement action and prosecutions in work-related Coronavirus cases begin to feed through. To help you know what to expect, we look at a couple of similar cases that have taken place this year.
Both cases took place in the last six months and were dealt with in the West Hampshire Magistrates’ Court.
In the first case, the court imposed a fine of £20,000 plus costs on a small Hampshire-based engineering company, Lymington Precision Engineers. It failed to protect its employees from harm when dealing with metalworking fluid. This is notorious for its potential to cause both dermatitis and asthma; the effects can be severe. Had the company implemented proper controls and adopted good, safe working practices there would have been no prosecution. Amongst other things, the company had failed to provide suitable personal protective equipment and failed to implement suitable hygiene procedures. Prosecution was not conditional on any employee having suffered actual harm – it was enough for it to be proved that there was a risk and it had not been properly controlled.
In the second case, a car dealership had failed to put in place control measures adequate for protecting employees from the exposure to spray paints. This could have resulted in employees suffering from respiratory illnesses. The car dealer, Harwoods Limited, was fined £120,000 plus costs. As with the first case, Harwoods would not have had a problem had they combined effective control measures and good working practices in order to minimise the risk.
It is easy to see how the subject matter of these cases is very similar to Coronavirus hazards. There were significant health risks, especially respiratory harm, and the need for the risks to be managed by effective control measures and good, safe systems of working. The cases show that the courts will be no less sympathetic when they deal with Coronavirus cases. Indeed, the fines may be much greater, given that Covid-19 is potentially in a higher category of harm.