One of the world's top ejector seat manufacturers, Martin-Baker Aircraft Ltd, has today been fined £1.1 million plus £550,000 court costs after it breached health and safety laws following the death of Red Arrows pilot Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham in November 2011.
The pilot was fatally injured after being ejected from his Hawk T1 aircraft while on the ground at their UK base, RAF Scampton. Flt Lt Cunningham's parachute failed to deploy, and he died later in hospital. The fine is one of the biggest health and safety related sentences in the UK in recent years.
The director of Martin-Baker Aircraft, John Martin pleased guilty in January to a breach of section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974. This states that "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected threreby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."
During the trial, the company stated that they had a good safety record, and the chance of an accident like this happening was about once in every 100 years.
However Mrs Justice Carr said today that the pilot "was a fit and professional trained pilot with a promising future ahead of him. A significant number of pilots, and also potential passengers, were exposed to the risk of harm over a lengthy period. Here the risk of harm was of the highest level - death. Martin-Baker Aircraft Company fell short of the appropriate standard."
While this was a high profile case, it is a good reminder to all business owners and employers to check that everything your company does is not putting others at risk of serious harm. If you need any help and support in checking over risk assessments and procedures, feel free to contact us.
Sources: Forces News, Sky News