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Health and safety precedent setting investigation


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Tim Green was recently instructed by the HSE in a precedent setting use of the Control of Major Hazard Regulations (“COMAH”) arising out of the inadvertent ignition of the rocket motor charge by Roxel Motor Limited. The defendant company admitted breaching s2 and 3 HSWA1974 when a technician examining a rocket charge with very hot borescope accidentally ignited the charge in the presence of 2 other technicians. The fire lasted around 10 seconds and burned at temperatures around 450 degrees. Other rocket  charges were in the same room and an open rocket propellant store left open an adjacent room.

Roxel’s emergency response to this major accident was inadequate leading to the first ever prosecution under Regulation 12 of COMAH for failure to implement an emergency plan without delay.

On 8 July at Worcester Crown Court, Judge Cartwright found the defendant was very culpable on creating a high risk of serious harm or death to workers. He also found the breaches of COMAH warranted a consecutive sentence. The starting point for the fine was £1.7m. This was then reduced to take account of Roxel’s importance to the UK defence industry, the local economy, Roxel’s financial position and because of the company’s guilty pleas. Roxel had also spent around £210,000 investigating the failure. The final penalty was £386,000 fine and £60,000 costs.

The HSE press release on this case is available here.


Barristers: Tim Green
Categories: News