Cole, was killed in an explosion which ignited when he made repeated attempts to light a large industrial oven. Mr Cole became trapped after the oven door blew off and part of the ceiling came down onto him. A second worker, Marcus Cartwright, was also badly injured.
The subsequent HSE investigation found that a vent at the back of the oven had been fixed with high strength bolts rather than weak brass fittings, although it was unclear when this change was made. Andrew Jones Pies had taken over the oven and despite arranging for the oven to be serviced and maintained, they had not appreciated the risks involved in repeated attempts to light the oven.
The HSE confirmed that no more than two attempts to light the oven should have been made. After the CPS investigated the case, it was passed back to the HSE by which time the company had been put into administration. The HSE proceeded with a prosecution. Andrew Jones Pies was unrepresented and was found guilty of breaches of Regulation 5(1) Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations, and Regulations 8(1) and 9(1) PUWER. It was fined £250k and ordered to pay costs of £124,896. However, in view of its financial status, it is unlikely either sum can or will be paid.
In contrast, following the prosecution of Applied Fusion, a company also in administration, a nominal fine of £1 was imposed following an incident in December 2009 when their employee, Bruce Dempsey, was killed. Mr Dempsey had been assisting in the move of four machines into a larger workshop following Applied Fusion’s recent takeover of the site. However, a health and safety audit of the premises had not been carried out and the task had not been planned properly. The machines were moved on forklifts, but during the course of the move of the last machine, a fly press, the load became unstable and fell onto Mr Dempsey who had been walking alongside the forklift. The subsequent HSE investigation found that there were steps that Applied Fusion could have taken to properly plan the move of four complicated pieces of machinery which had not been taken, and that the task was therefore inherently unsafe. Applied Fusion was found guilty of breach of s2(1) and the judge made clear that if the firm had not been in administration, it would have faced a substantial fine.
These two cases demonstrate how the alternative approaches the courts can take to sentencing in health and safety prosecutions can lead to inconsistency.