Fines imposed on companies for health and safety breaches are meant to hurt, but a previously unblemished record and steps taken to remedy shortcomings can be powerful mitigation. In one case, a kitchen appliances manufacturer that was ordered to pay £700,000 following a fatal accident had the penalty more than halved by the Court of Appeal.
The manufacturer admitted an offence under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 after a 66-year-old contractor fell about 15 feet to his death from a cherry picker. He had been installing fire detection equipment when maintenance workers, who were unaware of his presence, started an overhead conveyor belt. The movement caused the cherry picker to tip over.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that there was no effective control or supervision in place to prevent the conflicting tasks being undertaken at the same time. The manufacturer was ordered to pay a £700,000 fine.
In reducing that penalty to £300,000, however, the Court found that it would have a real economic impact and was a sufficient sum to bring home the gravity of the matter to the manufacturer’s management and shareholders. The manufacturer also had an impeccable previous health and safety record and had done all in its power to remedy deficiencies that had been exposed by the accident.