Our HSE Update November explores the focus area from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), as they continue to visit workplaces across the UK for spot checks and inspections. We also provide a roundup of prosecutions from the previous month, highlighting the commonly identified issues for employers to avoid.

International Stress Awareness Week

Stress Awareness week ran from 30th October – 3rd November 2023, with the HSE reminding all employers of their legal duties in relation to stress in the workplace.

Spotting the signs of stress in the workplace early is important as this can reduce the pressure and make it easier to tackle. Signs of stress in the workplace can be:

  • Arguments
  • Higher staff turnover
  • Higher reports of stress
  • Increase in sickness absence
  • Decreased performance
  • Increase in complaints and grievances

If employees are feeling stressed or notice a team member struggling, it is paramount they speak to a manager, trade union representative, worker representative, HR department, counselling service or GP.

Over £1.9m in fines and 5 workplace fatalities

The HSE issued over £1.9m in fines in October and reported 5 workplace fatalities. The highest fine was for £600k, issued to 3 companies after an employee was fatally electrocuted whist repairing an appliance. The HSE found that the machine has serious flaws with the earthing wire connection ineffective and the equipment constantly live.

The HSE are currently prosecuting a company for the deaths of three men after a crane collapsed on a construction site. Due to the complexity of the investigation a plea and trial preparation hearing is due in October 2023.

In another case, an employee also lost his life when unloading from a refuse vehicle. He was trapped between the tailgate and hopper and was crushed. This caused multiple injuries which he later died from in hospital. The HSE found that the company had failed to maintain the equipment properly which had multiple faults and it had not been examined by a competent person.

The HSE issued 3 prison sentences in October, two of which were suspended. One sentence of 6 months was suspended for 12 months, after young employee had his finger sliced off on his first day at work. The HSE reported that there were no suitable and sufficient risk assessments for this type of work and the employer had failed to manage the safety of their employees.

A sentence of 16 months, suspended for 2 years was issued to a plumber for carrying out illegal gas work and breaching a Health and Safety enforcement notice. The plumber undertook illegal work whilst serving a suspended jail sentence for the same offence.

Another plumber who was self-employed, was also sentenced after carrying out illegal and unsafe plumbing work despite being previously issued with a Prohibition Notice in 2016. He received a 12 month prison sentence.

Following these events in our HSE Update November, employers should ask themselves:

  • Are all your risk assessments routinely reviewed?
  • Are they still suitable?
  • Are your employees up to date with all their training needs?

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