alton towers

Alton Towers owner guilty over roller coaster crash.

When you hear the words health and safety what do you think?  Yawn? Boring? Will look at it later?

Well this story is sure to make you sit up and listen.

The owner of Alton Towers Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd (“Merlin”) is facing a multimillion-pound fine after admitting breaking health and safety laws over the ‘smiler incident’ in June 2015.

Two people had their legs amputated after the collision on the Smiler ride, while three others suffered life changing injuries.

‘Merlin’ admitted to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 following the incident that occurred on 2 June 2015.

The guilty plea is believed to make Alton Towers the first major UK theme park while owners have admitted a criminal breach of health and safety laws.

Bernard Thorogood, for the HSE, told the court: “The Smiler rollercoaster came into operation in 2013 in May and in our schedule ran from then until the time of the accident at the beginning of June 2015 in a way that was not as safe as it should have been.”

He said an “absence” of proper systems for staff to follow when a carriage was stopped on the rails led to the accident.

Sentencing is deferred to Stafford Crown Court on 20 May 2016 where Merlin faces the potential of a multi-million pound fine. The new ‘Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences Definitive Guidelines’, came into force on 1 February 2016, supporting increased sentencing and fines in England and Wales.

With recent decisions such as R v Thames Water Utilities Limited [2015] EWCA Crim 960, having commented on the approach to be taken to “very large organisations” (where turnover greatly exceeds the scale set out by the sentencing guidelines for large organisations of £50 million+) that it: “may well result in a fine equal to a substantial percentage, up, to 100%, of the company’s pre-tax net profit… even if this results in fines in excess of £100 million.”

So what does this mean for Merlin? Well with a reported turnover of £1.28 billion and a pre-tax profit of £250million in 2015 the consequences of this incident could be astronomical.

This incident puts into reality one of our key areas of expertise ‘Be Safe’, when it comes to complying with health and safety there are no ‘cutting corners’, prevention is much better than cure. If you do find yourself facing problems, please give us a call we give a rapid response to incident investigation, crisis management and representation in court proceedings. Remember #besafe

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