Regulatory Outlook

Health and safety | Regulatory Outlook July 2022

Published on 28th Jul 2022

Manslaughter conviction for food waste recycling | HSE publish workplace fatality figures for 2021/2022 | Updated CQC guidance implications

Double corporate manslaughter conviction for food waste recycling company 

Food waste recycling company, Greenfeeds, has been fined £2 million for the corporate manslaughter   of two employees who drowned in a road haulage tanker containing semi-liquid pig feed. The case involved a worker who was instructed to clean the inside of a tanker but rapidly lost consciousness due to the level of carbon dioxide in the unventilated confined space. The second employee was the first to respond, but also lost consciousness after entering the tanker. Both men were pulled out but died at the scene despite the presence of emergency services and resuscitation attempts.

Alongside this conviction of two counts of corporate manslaughter, Mr Justice Fraser also:

  • imposed a publicity order;
  • imprisoned the office and accounts manager, who oversaw the day to day running of the site, for 13 years after she was convicted of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter. She was also found guilty of a breach of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (HSW) Act by virtue of section 37(1) in that, as a director or equivalent, the company’s section 2(1) offence was committed with her consent, connivance or was otherwise attributable to her neglect;
  • imprisoned the company’s managing director for 20 months after he was convicted of a breach of section 2(1) via section 37(1) of the HSW Act; and
  • imposed a one-year prison term, suspended for two years, on the transport manager who was in charge of the yard after he was convicted of a breach of section 7(a) of the HSW Act in that, as an employee, he failed to take reasonable care for the health and safety of people who might be affected by his acts or omissions.

Within his judgment, Mr Justice Fraser said that Greenfeeds, “had absolutely no regard for the safety of its employees, particularly those who worked in the yard”, and that the offences fell into the worst category (A) of corporate manslaughter: “Not only did the company fall exceedingly short of the required standard, but obviously so. Indeed, barely any attempt was made to reach even a basic standard of safety. The non-compliance was widespread and universal, and employees who sought to challenge or avoid the dangerous activity were either rebuffed in strong terms … or simply ignored."

Directors, senior managers and employees across all sectors need to understand their legal duties and responsibilities for the health, safety and wellbeing of others. Greenfeeds Limited's failings included the absence of safe methods of working and a lack of safety equipment, relevant staff training and adequate risk assessments. 

Although this was a case where there was a complete disregard for safety, it also follows that simply having adequate procedures in place is not sufficient if compliance by employees is not monitored. It is also vital to recognise any pre-cursors such as near misses and take steps to address the deficiencies exposed. 

These prosecutions give weight to advice that if those with the authority fail to implement and manage safety standards and put their employees at risk, then they become exposed to personal liability as well as the company. 

HSE publish workplace fatality figures for 2021/2022

On 6 July, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released its annual workplace fatality figures for 2021/22 which showed a 123 workers were killed in work-related accidents in Great Britain in the last year. This figure is lower than the previous year but is in line with pre-pandemic figures. The three most common causes of fatal injuries continue to be falling from height, being struck by a moving vehicle, and being struck by a moving object.

HSE’s Chief Executive Sarah Albon said: “While Great Britain is one of the safest countries in the world to work, today’s figures show we must continue to ensure safety remains a priority. Every loss of life is a tragedy, and we are committed to making workplaces safer and holding employers to account for their actions, as part of our mission to protect people and places.”

Updated CQC guidance implications for the health technology and wellbeing industries  

As detailed in our Insight, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has updated its guidance on the range of healthcare organisations that should be registered. The new guidance is in keeping with the general trend of the regulatory system expanding to include a greater range of healthcare and wellness products and services. 

Under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014, providers carrying out regulated activities in England must be registered with the CQC. Failure to do so amounts to an offence. Providers need to be familiar with the regime of monitoring and inspection carried out by the CQC that is intended to ensure standards of care are met. 

While the CQC's power to widen the scope of the activities that must be registered is limited by the 2014 regulations, the reworked guidance reflects the fact that models for healthcare service delivery have evolved significantly in recent years. Providers whose services come within the scope of the updated guidance will need to assess whether they should register with the CQC and consider carefully the obligations that come with providing a regulated service. 

Post-implementation review of regulations relating to the Care Quality Commission

Following the CQC's recent update to its guidance on the scope of registration, the government has recently launched a wider consultation seeking feedback from all providers of a regulated activity that are registered with the Care Quality Commission in England on three sets of regulations made under the Health and Social Care Act 2008. These regulations are:

  • Care Quality Commission (Registration) Regulations 2009
  • Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014
  • Care Quality Commission (Reviews and Performance Assessments) Regulations 2018

The aim of the post-implementation review is to determine:

  • Whether all three regulations meet their original objectives
  • Whether their scope is still appropriate and proportionate
  • Their impact on providers
  • Whether any changes are required to achieve those objectives with a system that imposes less regulation or to change what the regulations prescribe

The consultation closes 11.45am on 22 July.

Covid-19 public inquiry begins

On 28 June, the public inquiry looking into the UK’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic officially launched. The terms of reference, cover 37 topics divided into three areas: the public health response across the whole of the UK; the response of the health and care sector across the UK; and the economic response to the pandemic and its impact, including government interventions. 

The Inquiry Chair published the inquiry's opening statement on 21 July. The 32 page document sets out the provisional scope of module one, the core participant protocol and the costs protocol. it also provides details of the first three modules of the inquiry, which are as follows :

Module 1 – will look at the extent to which the risk of a coronavirus pandemic was properly identified and planned for and the inquiry will scrutinise the government's decision-making in regarding to its planning for a pandemic. 

Module 2 – will look at core political and administrative governance and decision-making for the UK, this will  include looking at the relationships with the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

Module 3 – will examine the impact of Covid-19, and of the governmental and societal responses to it, on healthcare systems generally and on patients, hospital and other healthcare workers and staff. Within module 3 the inquiry will, among other things, investigate healthcare systems and governance, hospitals and primary care (including GPs and dentists).

The Inquiry’s first procedural hearings will begin in September and October for modules 1 and 2. Public hearings for module 1 will begin in spring 2023 for module 1 and summer for module 2. More information on module 3 timings will be available in the coming weeks. 

Environment agency calls for tougher punishments on polluting water and sewerage companies

Please see Environment

Consultation on extending UK REACH submission deadlines

Please see Products


* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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