A Russell-Cooke team recently secured the acquittal of its client, a roofing company, against a claim by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The acquittal followed a two week trial in April 2021 in Southwark Crown Court. The jury reached a unanimous decision.

The client was accused by the HSE of breaching section 2 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 by failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees during a construction project in Bromley. The claim arose following an accident in which a worker was struck by a falling piece of redundant plant.

The Russell-Cooke team consisted of health and safety partner Kizzy Augustin and criminal litigation senior associate Jenny Boyden, instructing Dominic Adamson QC of Temple Garden Chambers. The defence argument rested on the fact that because the defendant only supplied labour made up of self-employed contractors and not employees, it had no duties under section 2 of the Act (albeit it may have had statutory duties under alternative legislation). Furthermore, the team argued that their client had taken all reasonably practicable steps to ensure safety within the remits of its role as a supplier of labour and that the duty to plan, manage and monitor the construction work to ensure safety rested with the principal contractor (Y) and another roofing contractor (Z) to whom X supplied labour. 

The client was acquitted and the two other defendants were convicted and await sentencing.

Kizzy Augustin commented: “This is a fantastic result and a reflection of great team work. Health and safety in the workplace is of absolutely crucial importance and we are delighted to see that responsibility for this unfortunate accident will remain with the right party.”