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Cormac health and safety incident report August 2021

In early 2021, Dominic Adamson QC was appointed by Cornwall Council and Corserv to carry out an investigation into the long-running saga of the health and safety incident that occurred at the Cormac Grampound Road depot in December 2016.

For background information on this issue, see various articles on my legacy website including More Cormac untruths.

Mr Adamson has now completed his report and submitted it to the Council and Corserv. It has been published on the Corserv website along with a press release quoting the chairman of Corserv and the Leader of the Council,
see Corserv press release.

Mr Adamson’s report confirms many of the points that I have been making for the past 18 months. In particular, he finds that:

Cormac made three factual errors in its initial RIDDOR report to the Health and Safety Executive in January 2017 – these were that Mr Richards passed out before falling and banging his head (there was no evidence that this was the case); that he was taken to hospital by a colleague (he was taken to hospital in an ambulance); that the injury was an over 7 days injury (it should have been reported as a fractured skull).

However, Mr Adamson concluded: “However, I do not accept that it was prepared with the intention of deliberately misleading the HSE. The reality is rather more mundane. It was simply erroneous.”

Cormac misled the HSE in October 2017 when it made some corrections to the RIDDOR report but, again, failed to tell the HSE that the injury was a fractured skull.

Mr Adamson merely says, “Cormac had an opportunity to inform the HSE about the full extent of the injuries sustained. It did not seize that opportunity.”

The Corserv managing director wrote to the HSE in September 2019 when the company finally admitted that the injury was a fractured skull. Mr Adamson says, “This letter gives the impression that the confidential nature of medical correspondence hampered the ability of Cormac to report the injury correctly (see highlighted text). It also gives the impression that the health and safety team’s ability to know about the fracture was hampered by this. I do not consider that is in fact correct. The health and safety function was aware of the Employee’s self-report of the fracture by no later than 16 January 2017 (see appendix C). Therefore, I think the impression this letter gives is erroneous. I am satisfied that the Managing Director of Corserv was not aware of appendix C (the e-mail dated 16 January 2017) when the letter of 17 September 2019 was sent. In my view the letter was not deliberately misleading. I would also add that I do not consider that it is correct to treat every discrepancy as evidence of bad faith. I was told by the Managing Director of Corserv that had she been aware of that e-mail she would have worded the letter to the HSE differently. I accept her account. In my view the letter was not deliberately misleading.

In fact, I had met with Cath Robinson and Kate Kennally on 4 September to talk through my allegations of wrongdoing by Cormac. Prior to that meeting, I submitted to both of them a paper laying out my allegations and included in them was a copy of the 16 January 2017 email that showed that Cormac knew about the fractured skull. The email was also included in Cormac’s own incident report (appendix 14) compiled in August 2017 and provided to the HSE in its meeting with them in October 2019. Mrs Robinson appears to have forgotten that she had that information before she wrote to the HSE on 17 September.

Overall, Mr Adamson describes a long list of errors by Cormac in respect of this incident but his explanation for all the errors is that they were innocent mistakes. He does not hold any individual within Corserv responsible for this. In fact, he goes out of his way to praise them, saying, "I have interviewed the person who submitted the report and the head of the department I am entirely satisfied that both have dedicated the larger part of their professional careers to health and safety. I do not consider that it is likely that they would have acted in this manner."

I, however, stand by my allegation that the false reporting to the HSE was a series of deliberate untruths designed to cover up the seriousness of the accident.

When it comes to Cornwall Council, Mr Adamson says, “I have concluded that the Officers of Cornwall Council acted appropriately at all times with respect to this matter. I do not consider that the Officers of the Council could reasonably have been expected to do more.

I do not accept this. I stand by my allegations that Cornwall Council could have, and should have, intervened to ensure that Cormac owned up to, and put right, their wrongdoings. The Council was also responsible for a number of untruths, including:

The Leader said in an email to members of the Independent group, “I would like to reassure you that I have investigated this matter fully and have found that Bob's accusations do not stand up.”

This was not true. He had not carried out an investigation.

When I made an FOI request to the Council to obtain a copy of the Leader’s supposed investigation, the first response refused to supply the information and said, “the Leader’s findings were in line with those of the employer and he was satisfied with the actions and learning undertaken however, it is considered that documentation relating to this matter is exempt

However, after I had asked for a review of the decision to refuse to supply a copy, it was then admitted that, “After reviewing the case as an independent reviewer, my conclusion is that there is not a copy of an investigation report held. Whilst there are reports pertaining to the incident, the Leader did not produce a further report. He assessed the information within the existing reports and had meetings and conversations to question them. He then assimilated all of this information and came to a conclusion about the accusations that were made

In other words, there was no investigation and the first FOI response was an untruth.

My conclusion is that Cornwall Council were complicit in trying to cover up this whole issue.

However, it seems that the Conservative leadership of Cornwall Council, having now acquired the reins of power in County Hall are no longer so willing to pursue this matter as they were when in opposition. Given that the Independent and Liberal Democrat groups did not give any support to me when I was fighting my battles with the Council and Corserv in 2020, it is clear that there is very little political support within the Council to continue this battle now.

One final point about the press release by Corserv. It says, "The fact that no definite conclusions could be found regarding the cause of the incident is disappointing”. That from a man whose company spent four years desperately trying to ensure that as little investigation as possible was undertaken into what happened that day!

It seems that Andrew Richards, who dedicated his whole working life to the Council and Cormac is left with no justice for the wrong that has been done to him.

This issue has probably finally reached its end. The only way that it will now be revived is if Corserv decides to resurrect its threat to take me to court for libel. Just to be clear, I am still publicly accusing Corserv of deliberately lying to cover up a serious health and safety incident. I do not accept Mr Adamson’s conclusion that it was all a series of innocent mistakes.

3 August 2021

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