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Record Health & Safety Fine: A Wake Up Call For Business Owners

Following a roller coaster collision which left 16 people injured, a number of them seriously, Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd, owners of Alton Towers, have pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and have received a record fine of £5million with costs of £69,955.40.

Two young women on the Smiler ride suffered leg amputations and others suffered severe injuries when their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track in June 2015.

Stafford Crown Court heard that on the day of the incident, engineers overrode the Smiler’s control system without the knowledge and understanding to ensure it was safe to do so. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found no fault with the track, the cars, or the control system that keeps the cars apart from each other when the ride is running.

Investigators found the root cause to be a lack of detailed, robust arrangements for making safety critical decisions. There was no working or safety manual provided for the Smiler and the whole system, from training to fixing faults, was not strong enough to stop a series of errors by staff when working on the ride.

Employees need to be trained and competent to carry out the work they are tasked to do. It is also imperative to have good health and safety systems and working procedures which are adhered to. 

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands said “This avoidable incident happened because Merlin failed to put in place systems to allow engineers to work safely on the ride while it was running. This made it all too easy for a whole series of unchecked mistakes, not just one push of a button, to result in tragic consequences.

 “Since the incident Alton Towers have made improvements to the ride and their safety protocols, and the lessons learned have been shared industry wide.”

The level of the fine is a record for a non-fatal accident in the UK and is the first major case to be heard under the new Sentencing Guidelines for Health & Safety Offences.

At SCE Solicitors we are experts in helping companies manage their relationships with staff as well as Health & Safety (H&S) practices, which includes risk management and training.  If you would like to discuss any H&S issues, please contact us on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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