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The Health and Safety Duties of Directors

Director Sentenced to Prison After Worker Falls and Dies. 

Under the various statutory regulatory frameworks that define and govern the duties of directors, health and safety at work is perhaps the most important. When these duties are not complied with, resulting in injuries and even death, the consequences can be severe for the director involved and tragic for the victim. This case study looks at The Health and Safety Executive’s (‘HSE’) investigation into the conduct of Mr Othman Ahmed Hussein of Woodmill Road, London (‘Mr Hussein’) following the death of a worker at his commercial bakery. Mr Hussein received a suspended prison sentence and a 3 month curfew for his crime.

The Background to This Case

On 15 September 2017, Southwark Crown Court heard how Mr Ezat Shamselden (‘Mr Shamselden’) fell through a mezzanine floor ceiling as he was undertaking building repairs at the Wembley based commercial bakery of Mr Hussein. Tragically, Mr Shamselden died of his injuries.

Investigations by the HSE found that the deceased, Mr Shamselden, lacked the required equipment, skills and competencies to undertake work at height safely. Mr Hussein was criminally prosecuted, in his capacity as Director.  He pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The section states that:

It shall be the duty of every… person [who conducts an undertaking of a prescribed description] to conduct [the undertaking] in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.’

Mr Hussein was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 2 years, given a three month 8:00pm to 7:00am curfew and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £100.

What the HSE Said

HSE Inspector Nicholas Faber said:

Vulnerable workers require the most support and individuals should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those who fall below the required standards.”

Our Comment on This Case and the Duties of Directors

Had Mr Hussein taken the time to carry out a basic check of the deceased’s capabilities, the tragic incident could have been avoided.

The case is a reminder that compliance with Health and Safety Legislation is a statutory requirement for Directors and that a failure to observe such duties can result in a prison sentence for a defaulting Director. Every worker has the right to work in a safe environment, and this case shows just how seriously the authorities take non-compliance.

It is also a salutary reminder of the criminal law enforcement action the HSE will take against Directors if there is a failure to comply and that Company Directors will be pursued personally in respect of Health and Safety breaches.

As solicitors specialising in the area of regulatory compliance, we are well used to dealing with the tactics and strategy of defending such cases, to the best advantage of the Company and its Directors. We are also experienced in working with the insurers for the Director and/or the Company in such cases.

Contact us for Help and Advice Regarding the Duties of Directors

If you have any questions regarding your duties as a Company Director under Health and Safety legislation or more generally, and the effect of non-compliance in any case, please contact us or call us today on 0121 200 7040 for a FREE, no obligation initial chat.

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