60-second law update: health and safety

Ashleigh Wight
June 21, 2016


Operators have been warned about more significant fines being imposed on businesses in the case of a fatality or injury at work, as well as the importance of proper coupling and uncoupling procedures and likely changes to maximum pallet weights.


Tougher fines

Following the publication of new sentencing guidelines that came into force on 1 February 2016, courts have been able to impose tougher fines on companies in health and safety and corporate manslaughter cases.

Courts will now take into account a company’s turnover and culpability when deciding the size of fine that should be imposed in order to reflect the severity of the crime it has committed. If an individual is involved, they could also face a prison sentence.

Small businesses are likely to receive smaller fines if they are prosecuted, but larger operations (with a turnover of over £50m) could face a fine of up to £20m in a corporate manslaughter case.


Coupling and uncoupling

The HSE said it considered it “reasonably practicable” that hauliers retrofit visual and audible parking brake alarms to prevent runaways when coupling and uncoupling trailers, indicating that it deems such safety equipment necessary.

Its warning came after a court case in May, which saw a driver receive a 12-month prison sentence and 12-month driving ban after a tractor unit rolled into a vehicle and crushed a road worker during a coupling procedure.

Earlier this year, another operator was hit with a fine and costs totally over £157,000 after a worker was crushed by a runaway truck that had been coupled to a trailer without the handbrake being applied first.

The HSE has issued detailed guidance on how coupling and uncoupling should be carried out. 


Pallet weights

Although there is no law setting the maximum weight of a loaded pallet, the HSE said it is looking at ways it could limit them to 750kg after Palletline and Fortec reduced the maximum weight they would carry for tail-lift deliveries.

An HSE spokeswoman told Commercialmotor.com that operators should take into consideration the risk of musculoskeletal injuries to workers, as well as the safe working limit for the truck’s tail-lift. It said it was working with the industry to reduce the maximum weight.

The use of pallets is covered by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the HSE has published guidance on how operators can ensure they are following this legislation correctly. 

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