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Employers – Disregard Health and Safety Rules at Your Peril!

In a wake-up call to any unwise employers who might view health and safety rules as little more than an inconvenience, a farming equipment company was heavily fined after an employee was badly injured by an exploding tyre.

The company pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 after one of its workers suffered severe head and facial injuries in the accident. He and a colleague were trying to fit the tyre onto a four-wheel-drive agricultural vehicle when it burst due to extreme over-inflation.

The man, who was also blinded in one eye, has since returned to work with the company, although in a different role. However, the Health and Safety Executive launched the prosecution on the basis that the company had failed to provide adequate training or to carry out necessary risk assessments.

The company was fined £750,000 by the Crown Court and ordered to pay £9,000 in prosecution costs. However, in reducing the fine to £100,000, the Court of Appeal noted that, although the company had a high turnover, its profit margins were relatively small. There was also a substantial deficit in the company’s pension scheme and the original fine was well beyond the range of those imposed in comparable cases.