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Breaches of health and safety rules in the workplace can lead to criminal convictions, heavy fines and even jail for senior management. In one such case, the nation’s most senior judge made an example of a company managing director after a worker was crushed to death under a heavy piece of machinery.
The worker died after an over-burdened forklift truck toppled over and the piece of cutting equipment fell on top of him. The director was subsequently convicted of gross negligence manslaughter and breaches of health and safety regulations. He was given an 18-month suspended sentence and his company was fined £150,000.
The case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Solicitor-General on the basis that the sentence imposed on the director was ‘unduly lenient’. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, agreed and substituted an immediate 12-month prison sentence. The worker’s death had been entirely avoidable and the judge emphasised that custodial sentences would almost invariably be called for in such cases, usually in the range of four to five years.
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