I’ve just read about two different companies who were recently prosecuted for health and safety breaches. One was fined £15,000 and is now in liquidation, the other was fined £80,000 and is still operating.

But which of the two had the most good fortune, do you think?

One, a construction company, was fined for breaching several health and safety regulations after persisting with unsafe working practices despite repeated warnings.

HSE (Health and Safety Executive) inspectors found serious safety issues during visits to one of the firm’s construction sites. The company was served with a Prohibition Notice about managing the risk of falls, and an Improvement Notice about its lack of welfare facilities. A few months later, inspectors returned and still found problems with working at height, an issue which causes more deaths in construction than any other. Further investigation revealed that separate HSE advice had been ignored and that the firm had failed to comply with the Improvement Notice.

This was the company that was fined £15,000 and which is now in liquidation.

The second firm, a retail marketing business, had also failed to heed warnings. An HSE investigation found the company had failed to act on knowledge it had of a fatal incident at another business, when a worker died after being crushed between the fixed and moveable parts of a hand-fed press. The need for a safe system of work for a similar hand-fed press it used was identified, but nothing was done. Eight months later, an external health and safety consultant prepared a risk assessment and an action plan but again, the company failed to act.

Then three months later, a 49 year-old employee became trapped in the hand-fed press and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The construction firm, the one that is now in liquidation, was fortunate. The other, the company that continues to trade, wasn’t so lucky. Failing to act on health and safety in its case led to the worst possible outcome. The loss of a life.

I certainly would not want that on my conscience.

About Teresa Budworth