On Friday 16 Sept I attended a ‘mock trial’ at City Hall.
Around 200 members of the audience were ‘jurors’ at a mock trial of an employee prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act. The aim was to look at what might go wrong on a site and then take these ideas back and work to make things safer.
I attended the mock trial to support CVU, a principal contractor for Transport for London infrastructure upgrade project. We supply labour and contracts to CVU, and buried services are obviously a key part of the work. We do our best to train, supervise and encourage people to work safely – but we always want to look at how we can do things more safely.
The event was chaired by Margaret Sackey of the ICE Health and Safety Expert Panel. Kirsty Gomersal, Partner & Solicitor Advocate, Clyde & Co, gave us an overview of trial procedure and duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Mock trial: the case
The case was about a cable strike that caused serious life-changing injuries to two members of the workforce. The prosecution opened the case and we heard their witness evidence. Then, after a networking coffee break, we heard the defendants’ evidence. We looked at how their actions – and inactions – had led to the accident.
The judge summed up and we had to give our verdict. It was decided that the employees involved were guilty because they had ignored company procedure. There was a known high-voltage cable on site, and the strike was due to short-cuts that were taken.
There are over 60,000 cable strikes every year. Electric strikes cause the worst injuries. This mock trial was a valuable exercise in showing how small actions can make a big difference. If site supervisors and site managers fail to follow an agreed safe system of work, this can have a devastating effect, not only on their workforce but also on themselves. What they thought was maybe not necessary or just a paperwork exercise cannot be ignored – it can have serious consequences and land the individual in court.