Updated Sep 23, 2021

First prosecution from COVID spot checks

A construction contractor has been fined after multiple health and safety issues were identified during a Covid spot check.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard that on 9 July 2020, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector performed a proactive Covid-19 spot check at a construction site in the city.

During the inspection, a variety of safety issues were identified, which included things like:

  • working at height;
  • welfare;
  • Covid-19;
  • site security; and
  • electricity.

The principal contractor was served with a prohibition notice and two improvement notices.

A return inspection was carried out on 17 August 2020, after very little communication from the principal contractor. It found little or no improvements had been made regarding the issues and additional enforcement action was required, including a further prohibition notice relating to an unsupported excavation.

It was evident that the contractor had failed to comply with any of the improvement notices the HSE had served.

Principal contractor Umar Akram Khatab, pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations SI 2015/51. He was sentenced to a 12-month community order, ordered to pay £3,000 towards costs and a victim surcharge of £95.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Rebecca Vaudrey said: "the HSE prides itself on being a proportionate and evidence-based regulator. Since the beginning of the pandemic the HSE has carried out more than 316,000 Covid spot checks, with the priority to urgently make workplaces safe from transmission risks, rather than heavy-handed enforcement.

"These checks have demonstrated that the majority of employers want to do the right thing to ensure their workers go home safe and well.

"This is the first prosecution to arise from the Spot Check programme. We’ve repeatedly stressed that prosecution is a last resort, but this case clearly illustrates that where there is consistent disregard to Covid or other risks to employees’ health and safety, HSE will use its powers to take action."