The financial penalty for poor safety has been illustrated by a case in the West Midlands, where a steel company has been hit with a fine of £146,000 following an incident in which one of its workers was crushed to death.
Wilfred Williams, 57, was killed in May 2011 while he was carrying out maintenance work on an overhead travelling crane. He was working for C Brown & Sons (Steel) and was operating at the firm's base in Dudley when he was crushed.
He had been carrying out duties on board one crane approximately 6.5 metres above the ground when he stepped from it on to the rail of another crane and sat down. However, a colleague operating the second crane did not realise he had done so and began to move the machine, resulting in Mr Williams' death.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation and discovered several safety flaws, such as the fact the deceased man was not wearing a harness, while the company had not put any other measures in place to protect against a fall. There was also no system for safe working at height at the premises.
C Brown & Sons (Steel) of Dudley pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of more than £26,000, emphasising just how costly it can be to get it wrong when it comes to safety.
Speaking afterwards, HSE inspector Angela Gallagher said the Factories Act 1961 makes it a legal requirement for firms to consider safety when cranes are within six metres of people.
"Documents show the company had been aware of the risks for some time. A system to prevent falls from height - a line system whereby workers wearing a harness could clip onto the line - was being considered and an order was about to be placed at the time of the incident. However, the company had not put interim measures in place," she stated.