Traffic Marshalling Offences Lead to Heavy Fines

Royal Mail Group has been fined £1.6 million after a worker acting as yard marshal was seriously injured in a collision with a truck at its Jubilee Royal Mail Centre in London. Royal Mail Group was charged with breaching Section 2.1 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) over the accident at the mail centre yard on 12 December 2014. The injured party, employed as a yard marshal, was struck by a 7.5 tonne truck as it left the yard, knocking him unconscious and causing multiple injuries, including a fractured‎ jaw and several fractured ribs.

In a separate incident a McDonald’s franchise has been fined after a teenage employee was hit by an angry motorist outside its Lakeside Shopping Centre branch in Thurrock. Road signs for the restaurant’s drive-through and car park entrances were unclear and Danny Osborne had been asked by his shift manager to go outside and direct customers.

A court heard how the driver became ‘aggressive’ and drove into Danny, who was just 17 at the time in 2014. He was left with a fractured knee and was forced to give up boxing and a career in construction.

Thurrock Council brought the prosecution after its investigation into the incident found McDonald’s had not trained its staff how to direct and control traffic. Prosecuting lawyer Richard Heller read out a statement from Mr Osborne, which said: “This accident has really stopped me from doing all the things, physically, that I wanted to do growing up. I will have to live with this for the rest of my life.”
McDonald’s in Lakeside was found not to have provided sufficient training; the company was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £26,343 in costs.

These cases demonstrate the hazards of pedestrians and vehicles sharing a work place as they often do in the events industry. Aside from general duties of care under HASAWA, there is a clear legal requirement to separate pedestrians from vehicle movement in the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations and Regulations 27 and 28 in CDM applicable to event construction. The HSE has also issued clear guidance in the form of HSG 136 – Workplace Transport Safety.

Landmark Hearing Case for the Music and Entertainment Sector

A viola player who suffered a life-changing hearing injury at a rehearsal of Wagner's Die Walkure in 2012 has won a landmark High Court judgment against the Royal Opera House (ROH). The case won by Chris Goldscheider has huge implications for the industry and the health and safety of musicians and others exposed to noise risk.

It is the first time a judge has scrutinised the music industry's legal obligations towards musicians' hearing and is also the first time 'acoustic shock' has been recognised as a condition which can be compensated by a court.

On 1 September 2012, Mr Goldscheider was seated directly in front of the brass section of the orchestra for a rehearsal of Wagner's thunderous opera Die Walkure in the famous orchestra pit at the Royal Opera House. During that rehearsal, the noise levels reached 137 decibels, roughly equivalent to that of a jet engine. His hearing was irreversibly damaged.

The ROH also argued that a balance had to be struck between preserving the artistic integrity of the music while doing everything possible to reduce the risk of damage to musicians' hearing that was an inevitable feature of playing long-term in an orchestra. The judge disagreed, ruling that "the reliance upon artistic value implies that statutory health and safety requirements must cede to the needs and wishes of the artistic output of the Opera company, its managers and conductors. Musicians are entitled to the protection of the law, as is any other worker."

‘Acoustic shock’ relates to single exposure to a loud noise and is not the same as noise induced hearing loss caused by repeated exposure over time although both can cause permanent hearing loss and in the events industry those that work in music and some sports such as motor racing are vulnerable. This case sets a new precedent and event companies should review their policies in this regard.

This was a civil case for compensation and not a prosecution. The law, the Noise at Work Regulations, however, sets standards which, if followed should prevent incidents such as this. Sound Advice – Control of Noise at Work in Music and Entertainment HSG 260 issued by the HSE provides very detailed guidance. All employers, where employees are exposed to potentially harmful levels of noise, should monitor their staff with regular hearing tests. It should be remembered that whilst noise induced hearing loss is not a dramatic injury such as broken bone, it is none the less a life changing disability which will worsen over time with natural age related hearing loss.

The views and opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ESSA, its members, board or staff. Our members represent a broad range of views within the event industry, and we have provided this section of the website for their opinions to be openly heard and discussed.

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