UK crane company Falcon Crane Hire Ltd has been fined 750k UKP (about 1.1m USD) because of a crane collapse that killed 2 people.
What I find noteworthy in this is that the deaths occurred in 2006, the fine was just announced in 2016. The accident was technically complicated because it involved bolts shearing because of metal fatigue and factors such as bolts previously shearing and what systems had been used to investigate things. So this case is a good example of the awful long drawn out consequences of a serious accident.
Ten years in court. Can you even imagine the legal costs to the company that had the accident? They also had to pay 100k UKP in legal costs for the other side. Maybe the company is insured – that’s highly likely – but do the insurance company pay all the costs or is there a limit reached after which…? It dragged on for TEN YEARS. And maybe they will appeal, maybe it might even not be over yet!
Then there is damage to their business, big customers that maybe say let’s go somewhere else, less embarrassing. People like me, who in their professional roles influence purchasing of services like cranes might just say play it safe, go somewhere else just in case. Then maybe there is compensation to the victims’ families, which could also involve more legal fees. That part for all I know may not even have started yet. The ten years of management time occupied by the case = what did that cost. Future insurance premium fees – will they go up?
People use a phrase very readily when they say “The true cost of an accident.” This particular tragedy looks set to be one of the court cases that enters the safety training textbooks.
Notable also is that the accident was prosecuted under sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974. It was apparently not prosecuted under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations which are subsidiary Regulations to the 1974 Act. As a senior UK Health and Safety Inspector (HSE) told me, he doesn’t worry too much about detailed subsidiary Regulations (so-called in the UK Statutory Instruments), he just goes the for nice wide general 1974 Act, a law that basically says just make everything safe as far as is reasonably practicable. It’s a wide net, so it leaves little opportunity for fancy lawyers to wriggle out. “The law says it must be safe and there was an accident so clearly it was not safe,” is the crudely stated but essentially correct, perfect hindsight starting point that means health and safety prosecutions in the UK usually succeed.
In all this technical interest and professional analysis, let’s remember that for everyone involved in the human and technical failings that led to a tragedy, it was not anyone’s intention for people to die in a terrible accident that would damage the company and leave people grieving. Whatever the human factors and motives that led the people and organisation to this terrible situation, people did not on that day believe there would be an accident. The problem is that neither did they on that day believe there was a reasonable chance there could be an accident. Nobody set out to cause harm, but inadequacies led to it anyway.
None of us are perfect except through Christ. …he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone… (extract from John 8:7 KJV)
Jesus please help us to do our best very day to be safe and keep everyone else safe in their work too. Amen.