Directors Fined for Health & Safety Offences at Trampoline Park

In a case that highlights the importance of prioritising safety in business operations, two company directors found themselves in legal trouble after their trampoline park, “Flip Out” in Chester sadly became a hotspot for injuries. 

Between December 2016 and February 2017, nearly 300 people, including children, suffered injuries at Flip Out, with 11 broken backs, spinal fractures, dental damage, nose bleeds, broken ribs and 120 facial injuries among the reported cases. During this period, around 200,000 visitors attended the trampoline park. 

Despite operating through a company structure, the directors couldn’t escape personal liability for the health and safety breaches. Both admitted that the company had failed to uphold its duties under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, which states that employers must ensure the safety of the public as far as reasonably practicable.

The directors also admitted to being guilty of offences under Section 37 of the Act, which holds directors and senior managers personally accountable when company offences result from their neglect. The court found that the directors displayed a “cavalier” attitude toward safety, with glaring lapses such as inadequate risk assessments and safety checks, particularly concerning the foam pit. 

The alarming frequency of injuries prompted investigations by local authorities, leading to the park’s closure and subsequent criminal charges. Despite the directors’ negligence rather than malicious intent, they were given substantial fines, court costs, and community service orders.

One director, David Shuttleworth, received a fine of £6,500 along with £50,000 in costs and the other, Matthew Melling, was fined £6,300 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs. Additionally, both individuals were required to complete 250 hours of unpaid work.

Key Takeaways For Company Directors

This case serves as a reminder to all directors and senior managers that ignorance of health and safety obligations is no defence. The directors’ failure to take proactive measures and sufficient risk assessments to mitigate risks to customers not only resulted in severe consequences for the injured but also led to significant legal repercussions for themselves.

Operating a business through a company does not absolve directors of their responsibilities. The court’s decision highlights the increasing trend of prosecuting individuals for health and safety breaches, emphasising the need for directors to familiarise themselves with their legal duties. Ensuring the safety of both employees and members of the public must remain a top priority for businesses, with proactive measures and diligent adherence to regulations being paramount.

In health and safety offences, the duty of care for directors hinges not merely on their titles within the company, but on the authority and responsibility they hold. Legal cases have clarified that liability under section 37 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 is directed at those who have significant decision-making power and are accountable for setting corporate policy and strategy. 

It’s crucial for prosecutors to establish the individual’s role within the management structure to determine liability accurately. This may involve examining safety policies or other documentation to demonstrate awareness or oversight of circumstances leading to breaches by the company.

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