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Brian Welch
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Managing Director of On Safe Lines QHSE Software Ltd.
Managing Director of On Safe Lines QHSE Software Ltd.

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Alton Towers’ owners fined £5million over Smiler crash

The owners of Alton Towers have been fined £5million with costs of £69,955.40 following a rollercoaster collision which left 16 people injured, a number of them seriously.

Two young women on the Smiler ride suffered leg amputations and others suffered severe injuries when their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track on 2 June 2015.

Stafford Crown Court heard that on the day of the incident engineers overrode the Smiler’s control system without the knowledge and understanding to ensure it was safe to do so.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found no fault with the track, the cars, or the control system that keeps the cars apart from each other when the ride is running.

Investigators found the root cause to be a lack of detailed, robust arrangements for making safety critical decisions. The whole system, from training through to fixing faults, was not strong enough to stop a series of errors by staff when working with people on the ride.

Following the incident Alton Towers made technical improvements to the ride and changed their systems.

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd of 3 Market Close, Poole, Dorset pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc, 1974 and were fined £5million with costs of £69,955.40.

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands said:

“People visiting theme parks should be able to enjoy themselves safely. On 2 June last year Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd failed to protect their customers, they badly let them down.

“This avoidable incident happened because Merlin failed to put in place systems to allow engineers to work safely on the ride while it was running. This made it all too easy for a whole series of unchecked mistakes, not just one push of a button, to result in tragic consequences.

“Since the incident Alton Towers have made improvements to the ride and their safety protocols, and the lessons learned have been shared industry wide.”

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Health and safety statistics 2016

Published online (2 November 2016) the latest statistics on work-related health and safety in Great Britain and includes the following key annual figures (2015/16):

1.3 million working people suffering from a work-related illness.

2,515 mesothelioma deaths due to past asbestos exposures (2014).

144 workers killed at work.

72,702 other injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR.

621,000 injuries occured at work according to the Labour Force Survey.

30.4 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury.

£14.1 billion estimated cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions (2014/15).

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After decades of relatively stable and predictable health and dafety fines, the tide is now rising rapidly

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