Embargoed: 25 April, 2008: 00.01 am
Failure by Safety Body to publicise its own convictions, new research shows
The safety agency that prosecutes companies and individuals for health and safety offences fails to publicise the vast majority of its convictions – including those involving deaths - new research by the Centre for Corproate Accountability shows.
This is despite the fact that one of the main purposes of these kinds of prosecutions is to act as a deterrent against other employers from committing similar offences.
The research shows that in 2007, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) only issued a press release following 33% of its cases – 167 cases out of 502 - that resulted in a conviction. In 335 of these cases, it did not issue a press release
In the 84 of these conviction cases that involved a death, the HSE only issued a press release following 45 of them - 54% of cases. In 39 death-related convictions the HSE did not issue a press release.These included for example:
- conviction of Symonds Nursing Homes fined £12,000 in February 2007, after a resident suffered fatal burns
- conviction of London Central Bus Company, fined £80,000 in March 2007 after a man fell into the examination pit;.
- conviction of CF Roberts, (Electrical Contractors) PLC, fined £100,750 in May 2007 after a worker was electrocuted.
- conviction of Northern Hydraulic Cylinder Engineers Ltd, fined £10,000 in July 2007 when Engineer sustained fatal head injuries when he was struck by fitting ejected from hydraulic cylinder;
- conviction of Bifrangi UK Ltd, fined £65,000, in September 2007 after a worker was caught in a drilling machine
To see the table setting out the results, click here
To download a list of all the convictions involving a death, where the HSE did not issue a press release, click here
To download a list of those convictins that did result in a press release, click here
David Bergman, Executive Director of the CCA said:
“The failure of the HSE to publicise its convictions is simply extraordinary. HSE’s level of conviction has declined 54% since 1999 – convictions are increasingly rare. Yet the HSE fails to take the trouble to publicise even the convictions it has obtained.
HSE repeatedly tries to justify its low level of prosecution by pointing to the time and money prosecution takes – yet the HSE seems to be wasting its money if it fails to ensure that each conviction is widely known in trade, regional and national media.”
In defending its low level of press releases, the HSE told the CCA that press officers often used other ways to publicise convictions. The HSE said:
“A News Release is of course a well established method of communicating with journalists, but it is by no means the only one and not always the most effective. …. [I]t is sometimes more effective to make a phone call, do a 'sell-in', arrange a briefing or interview, or send an e-mail alert and not actually issue a News Release.”
However, CCA has found that those convictions which have a press release appear to gain far more media attention than those that do not. The CCA looked at the internet coverage of all the convictions following deaths in the six months between july to December 2007. Whilst those convictions which did receive a press release were mentioned in an average of six different newspaper, magazine or other websites, most of those convictions that did not get an HSE press release were not mentioned in any newspaper or magazine website (see below). See table with results
The CCA has written to Geoffrey Podger, Chief Executive of the HSE, asking him to take immediate steps to ensure that "every conviction results in a press release unless there are very particular reasons why this should not happen." An example of this may be that a bereaved family does not want it.
The research was undertaken by the CCA downloading all of the press releases concerning health and safety offence convictions published by the HSE or the Government News Network (GNN), now known as News Distribution Services, throughout 2007. The CCA then compared this number with the convictions listed on HSE’s own conviction database*. It includes a small number of cases resulting from a CPS prosecution - since these are on HSE's conviction database and HSE does sometimes issue a press release in relation to them.
The CCA then undertook a ‘google’ search of all organisations convicted following a death in the last six months of 2007. Each search involved the defendent's name, and the words ‘HSE’ and ‘2007’ and looked at 20 search results that were given. The CCA then looked at how many of these involved a local, regional, national, safety, industrial or other news website relating to the conviction. Search results involving HSE’s own conviction database, the GNN Press releases, and another website that copies HSE's database were excluded. Whilst this internet research will not have provided a comprehensive listing of all the media obtained about any particular conviction, it is a good indicator of how much more 'media' attention is obtained when there is an HSE press release.
* The CCA downloaded the conviction data in February 2008. The number of convictions will not have included a small number of cases placed on HSE's website subsequent to that data. However, no new press releases were placed on website after end of December 2007.
Conviction Statistics (source: HSE)
Centre for Corporate Accountability is a human
rights charity advising those bereaved from work-related
deaths, and working on issues of safety, law enforcement
and corporate accountability.
Centre for Corporate Accountability