First prosecution following Covid-19 spot check

There have been 316,000 Covid spot checks carried out by the Health & Safety Executive since the start of the pandemic lock-downs. Now one of them has resulted in a prosecution. 

On 17 September Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how a Health & Safety Executive (HSE) inspector had visited a construction site in Manchester on 9 July 2020 to carry out a proactive Covid-19 spot check. 

During the inspection, a host of safety issues were identified, including unsafe working at height, worker welfare issues, no Covid-19 compliance, site security, and potentially dangerous electricity. Principal contractor Umar Akram Khatab, resident in Hollingwood Lane, Bradford, at the time of the court case, was served with a Prohibition Notice and two Improvement Notices, which he failed to comply with.

A return inspection was made on the 17 August 2020 after very little communication from Umar Akram Khatab. Little or no improvements had been made regarding the issues and additional enforcement action was required, including a further Prohibition Notice regarding an unsupported excavation.

It was subsequently established that the contractor had failed to comply with any of the Improvement Notices HSE had served.

Umar Akram Khatab pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 21 of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015.

He was given 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: “HSE prides itself on being a proportionate and evidence-based regulator. Since the beginning of the pandemic 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 & safety, HSE will use its powers to take action.”