August 26, 2015

Spanish shopfitters fined £40,000 over safety breaches

A Spanish construction firm has been fined £40,000 over multiple safety breaches on a shop refurbishment project.

Betcat International Limited – a turnkey shopfitter based in Seville but with offices around Europe, including in London– was hired by clothing chain Mango to refurbish and make structural alterations to its store in Market Street, Manchester. Betcat employed the site manager and the other workers were subcontractors.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector visited the site in July 2014 after a member of the public raised safety concerns and identified issues including:

  • two workers were seen using tower scaffolds that did not have full edge protection to prevent falls and one of which was positioned so that the working platform was not level
  • new steel staircase leading from the ground to the first floor was in use, although it had no handrails or any form of edge protection
  • a man was seen on the second floor, standing on a structural steel beam spanning a large lift shaft opening in the concrete floor, with nothing to stop him falling through to the floor below
  • the site was cluttered with materials, waste and other debris. There seemed to be no clear walkways and lighting levels were very low
  • there were no fire alarms on site and the only fire extinguishers were out of date.

The company was served with six prohibition notices and two improvement notices, along with a notification of contravention. Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard that Betcat satisfactorily addressed all the issues raised by the HSE.

Betcat International Limited pleaded guilty at Trafford Magistrates’ Court in July this year to breaching Section 2(1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £40,000 (£20,000 per offence) with £3761 costs.

HSE inspector Laura Moran said after the case: “Betcat International Limited completely failed in its duty to protect its workers, its subcontractors and visitors to its site from harm. Given the range of serious breaches identified, it is very fortunate that nobody was injured or even killed while working on this site.”

Palmers’ partner Jeremy Sirrell, whose expertise includes representation in health and safety prosecutions, said: “Even the largest business can fall foul of health and safety legislation if it fails to implement a ‘top to bottom’ approach to compliance, so that employees at every level are aware of their individual responsibilities and alert to potential or actual breaches.

“A prosecution can result in a substantial fine, as well as the cost of the HSE inspection, investigation and enforcement action, and suffer significant reputational damage as a result. Palmers can provide expert advice on health and safety compliance  and representation in health and safety prosecutions in the criminal courts, from the earliest stages through to final hearings. For more information, please contact us.”