An example of a company and its management being prosecuted due to poor health and safety practises is the one that followed a fatal accident in 2010 at the waste company Gaskells (North West). The case concluded in 2018.

In 2010 Gaskells employee Zbigniew Galka entered the Company’s baler, used to compact paper and cardboard, to remove a blockage. He was able to do this without isolating the machine. Galka was crushed in the compaction chamber.

HSE’s investigation found that the interlock to the door of the chamber, preventing the baler from operating when open, had been disarmed by the maintenance engineer: Michael Cunliffe.  This was to bypass a faulty switchboard and keep production running. Cunliffe had emailed management about this modification.

Gaskells (North West) and Cunliffe pleaded guilty to health and safety offences with the Company being fined £700,000 and Cunliffe receiving a 4 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years.

Members of management were also prosecuted by HSE for safety offences.  The MD, Jonathan Gaskell, pleaded guilty and received an immediate prison term of 8 months.  Paul Jukes the transport and operations manager, was prosecuted on the basis that he had taken over the responsibilities of the health and safety manager when made redundant and that he knew about the modification, both of which he denied.  Jukes was convicted at trial and jailed for 9 months.

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This post was adapted from a case study written by Mike Appleby who is a speaker at Electrical Safety Management 2022. Mike is a partner at Fisher Scoggins Waters LLP and co-author of ‘HSE and Environment Agency Prosecution: The New Climate’ published by Bloomsbury Professional in 2019.