Two companies have received large fines within days of each other after the death of two workers in separate incidents. These sentences form the latest in a growing trend of high fines catalysed by the Health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences: Definitive guideline.

A London-based bus company has been fined £600,000 after a contractor fell from a ladder and suffered fatal head injuries. The worker had been accessing a fuel tank when the ladder fell backwards some two and a half metres. An investigation by the HSE revealed that the company did not have adequate measures for managing contractors and, in any event, had failed to ensure that even those inadequate measures were implemented.

The second firm, a construction equipment hire company, was fined £800,000 after a worker was killed whilst testing a hydraulic cylinder. The new employee had knelt close to the pressurised canister in order to check it for leaks. The cylinder pressure rose beyond safe working limits, causing it to explode. A shard of metal collided with the worker’s head and inflicted fatal injuries. The HSE’s investigation found multiple failings on the part of the company. The firm had failed to inform the worker of the safe working pressure for the cylinder, had not installed protective screens to prevent projectiles injuring staff, and had failed to exclude others from the test area. The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 12(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Both incidents were attributed in part to a lack of management and supervision. The London-based firm had failed to manage its contractors in an effective manner, and the equipment hire company had failed to adequately supervise the testing of the cylinder. The resulting high fines demonstrate the potential consequences of a failure to manage all work – whether contracted or not – taking place on site.