Safety Errors can be very Expensive

Westminster City Council v The Zoological Society of London [ZSL]

On 22nd October 2018 ZSL was fined a total of £40,000 with costs of £8000 for failing to ensure the safety of an employee, and linked, failing to have in place adequate a risk assessment.

On 16th July 2016 a keeper using a step ladder to clean an aviary perch fell and was injured; she had not been given ‘ladder training’. On 18th April 2016 ZSL commenced ladder training for all their 700 staff beginning with those who were most likely to use ladders, not all aviary staff had been reached.

The ladder in question had been identified as partially defective by trained staff, put for disposal, but had not been labelled and unbeknown came back into use.

The prosecution submitted sentencing guidance showed Culpability: Harm, Category 2: Level A (potentially any fall can be fatal) with medium culpability, ZSL fell in the High Turnover bracket, [giving a fine range of £300k to £1.5m. www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/…/HS-offences-definitive-guideline-FINAL]

ZSL submitted that the interpretation of the facts did not support Category 2, Level A., but Category 3, Level B. Further the prosecution’s approach did not address the particular circumstances of a large charity, that charitable monies and income should not be aggregated to the turnover figure, and that ZSL fell into the Medium Turnover bracket when the charitable elements were stripped out of the balance sheet.

The Judge found Culpability: Harm, Category 3, Level B, Medium Turnover; starting at £150k on each charge, the Judge gave credit for i) plea of guilty, (30%) ii) the charitable works of ZSL, (50%) iii) ZSL’s good safety record and positive response to the incident together with the co-operation with the investigation, iv) the penalty would come from funds which would otherwise have been used to benefit animals and the public, reducing the fine to £20k on each charge. 

Charles Parry mitigated on behalf of the Zoological Society of London. For further information on the case as reported in the media please click here.