Recent interesting decisions highlighted in the Health and Safety Review for June 2012

The first decision (DPP for HSA v Corden Pharma Limited: Cork Circuit Court, June 2012) resulted in a fine for the company of €300,000 and it was ordered to pay the HSA’s investigations costs of €27,193 and the DPP’s costs of €45,000. Judge Patrick J Moran stated that there was a very high standard of care required in the pharmaceutical business because of the very nature of the materials used. Here an explosion took place at a chemical plant where one worker was killed and another seriously injured. The HSA inspector Michael Boylan stated that it was the HSA’s understanding that an operator error occurred (i.e. an error occurred in the sequence of chemicals added resulting in the explosion). The company initially faced 16 charges and a director and manager were also facing charges however when the company pleaded guilty to a reduced number of charges, the charges against the director and manager were dropped.   At the hearing the company pleaded guilty to four charges under Section 8.2.d, 8.2.j, 8.2.c.iii and 8.2.h of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.   Defence Counsel for the company stated that the company did not cut corners to save money and had spent €444,000 on safety at the plant. Various expert evidence was proferred which highlighted the company’s efforts to maintain standards in health and safety.   Imposing sentence, Judge Moran accepted that the general standard of care was good but the company overlooked the likelihood of the omission of the acetone causing an explosion. Apart from the death and injury caused by the explosion, the judge noted that one of the aggravating factors in the case was the fact of previous health and safety convictions. Mitigating factors were the company’s guilty plea and the time saved as a result in what would have been a three week trial. Another mitigating factor was the advice the company had sought. The judge also assessed the company’s ability to pay a fine and noted the sum of 15m paid by the insurers to the company following the explosion which went towards redundancy costs, decommissioning of the plant and research and development. The judge noted the company had a turnover of 25m the year before the explosion and a profit of over €500,000. As noted above a fine of €300,000 was imposed plus costs.   A timely reminder to the pharmaceutical industry!