Saturday, 23 January 2016

Thanet Council White Finger Scandal To Cost You £4 Million?

Reports that Thanet Council has set aside £2.5million to pay compensation claims for over  20 serving and former council staff, who contracted the debilitating Hand, Arm, Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) whilst working for TDC got me wondering about the costs TDC appears to have neglected. These are the costs associated with any prosecution which may be taken against TDC by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or any other interested party.

My understanding is that the HSE will, following an extensive investigation, almost certainly be prosecuting TDC for breaching safety laws and damaging the health of a large group of its workers to whom it owes a legal duty of care. I am led to believe that the prosecution will take place later this year.   Any prosecution which takes place after 1 February 2016 will be conducted under new sentencing guidelines.

The new sentencing guidelines are very tough, and so they should be if employers through their actions or omissions, harm the health of their workers.  For the worst breaches of safety laws employers who recklessly and knowingly breach health and safety laws causing the death of staff or members the public now face an unlimited fine. Clearly Thanet does not fall into this category. However, it is likely that evidence may have been discovered which demonstrates that TDC had ignored safety laws and may have even falsified safety monitoring records. These reckless actions, if proved to be true, have led to a large number of staff contracting HAVS. Under the new sentencing guidelines this means that TDC could face a very large fine, perhaps up to  £1 million or more. When adding in the legal costs of defending a case as complex as this the final bill could easily reach £1.5 million, bringing the total bill for the  HAVs scandal to somewhere in the region of £4 million. That’s an astonishing £29 for every man, women and child living in Thanet. Also bear in mind that Thanet Council’s insurance policies are unlikely to cover a penny of £4 million costs because it’s likely that a court will decide that HAVs were caused by the unlawful actions of TDC and unlawful actions are never covered by insurance policies.

The other issue which interests me is that the HSE can, and often does, prosecute managers (serving or former)   where there is evidence of individual culpability in breaking safety laws and causing death or injury to staff. Not that I am aware that such evidence has been uncovered by the HSE in relation to this incident. However working on the hypothetical assumption that managers knowingly and recklessly breached health and safety laws causing 20 plus staff to contract “a progressive, permanent or irreversible condition” then those individual managers could face between 6 months to 2 years imprisonment and/ or an unlimited fine.

Clearly what I have written here is speculation on my part, but what I do know and what I have written about previously, is that the HAVs scandal at Thanet Council is not a small, insignificant incident, but something much more serious and widespread, with significant health implications for the  20 plus staff  affected. If there have been any failings, if there has been any wrongdoing then the council and those individuals responsible must be held to account and prosecuted, rather than covered up and protected as is normally the case at Thanet Council.



  1. The removal of monitoring at Manston would beeben more dangerous to thousands of sraff and public inhaling jet fuel for years...

  2. The inhalation of jet fuel is a global problem with localised concentrated emissions and fuel dumping. Air quality monitoring has always been dire in this area, and for road transport too. The staff at the Council if proper H&S procedures had been in place and not ignored then having a group of workers with life changing industrial injuries would have been avoided. Money is being cut to local councils by central government but the council tax payers in Thanet are now expected to fund TDC losses from a litany of huge mistakes and mis management. No wonder they want to cover up their dodgy decisions and start charging for Freedom of Information requests, which is the public's information anyway!

  3. Here is a related web site
    Many influencing causes, main being vibration. Is use of such machinery not done contractors who should take responsibility for their workers.
    Proving TDC only as the cause perhaps difficult.
    Ian - are you an elected green councilor of thanet or does this web page title need amending.

  4. Inhalation of jet fuel is a specific Thanet problem with Manston monitors removed by Tdc and Infratil. No doubt to downplay the pollution and cancer results as you are attempting to do also.

    Worth noting that emissions were eventually recorded at 4x EU safe levels in the town on the low levels of aircraft using Manston. The plans for 30 flights day and night approved by Tdc would have increased the pollution massively.

  5. Government money is being cut to local councils such as Thanet because they are incompetent. Now we can debate whether tax rises are valud for such failure.

    Haven't councillors tried to rush through a tax increase last week? Where are the tax cuts to lavish salaries and pensions?