£1.8 Million Fine For British Airways Spotlights The Vital Role Of EHS Technologies

In June 2021 British Airways was fined £1.8 million and ordered to pay £35,724 in costs following a vehicle collision at Heathrow Airport. The fine is one of the largest ever issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) with few penalties surpassing the £1 million mark. British Airways received the fine following an incident whereby an employee was struck by a vehicle transporting luggage resulting in serious crush injuries. An investigation by the HSE found that the injured employee was walking in the centre of a roadway when the incident occurred. Further analysis uncovered that the walking route had been commonplace for more than 10 years, “The situation in the baggage hall at Heathrow Terminal 5 was an incident waiting to happen,” commented HSE inspector, Megan Carr. HSE also discovered issues relating to supervision and monitoring, risk assessments and safety training.

The British Airways vehicle collision is by no means an isolated incident, during 2019/2020 the second most common cause of workplace fatalities in the UK was being struck by a moving vehicle. While human error is inevitable, technology can play a vital role in preventing such incidents. Firms using on-site vehicles should seek to deploy a range of preventative solutions to avoid collisions. In the case of British Airways, proper utilization of EHS software’s risk assessment functionalities, root-cause analysis and automated actioning of preventive measures should have led to the avoidance of an accident. Moreover, app-based solutions empower employees to report and identify safety risks, improving supervision and monitoring.

As potential risks can go undetected, driver safety technologies and proximity detection systems should be utilized as a second layer of defence. The Verdantix Tech Roadmap For EHS Technologies identifies proximity detection systems (PDSs) as a growing technology segment set to reach maturity in 10 years. Suited to industrial settings, PDSs utilize vehicle mounted sensors to create a virtual perimeter around vehicles. Should a worker with a wearable device enter a restricted region both the individual and the driver can be alerted via haptic feedback. PDSs are gaining traction in industrial settings, consider Chevrons successful partnership with Accenture to reduce crane related industrial accidents. EHS professionals can also seek to manage risks associated with driver behaviour through fleet telematics and driver safety technologies which include advanced driver assistance, VR and AR systems, computer-aided vision and smart glasses.

Ultimately the British Airways collision was an avoidable incident which highlights the challenges safety teams face towards achieving zero-incident workplaces. While user error and unsafe behaviours will always be a major barrier to safer workplaces, innovative EHS technologies help provide an additional layer of support and risk management. To understand more about the role of EHS technology and the value it can deliver, visit the Verdantix website.

EHS 1.8 Million Fine For British Airways Spotlights The Vital Role Of EHS Technologies Blog

Christopher Sayers

Analyst, Verdantix

Chris is a Technology Analyst in the Verdantix EHS practice. His current research agenda focuses on digital mental health and wellbeing solutions. Chris joined Verdantix in 2020 and has previous experience at EY, where he specialised in robotic process automation (RPA). He holds an M.Eng. in Engineering Science from Oxford University with a concentration in machine learning and machine vision.