Comment – Repeat offenders…

Is the HSE doing enough to prevent contractors repeating past mistakes?

We have all watched enough TV police and courtroom dramas to know how the judicial system works. A first offence for most crimes results in a slap on the wrist followed by a warm hug from a social worker. A second offence is treated rather more seriously. And a third offence means porridge for breakfast and several months or years spent avoiding “Big Dave” in the communal showers.

But do those same rules apply in the prosecution of health and safety breaches?

Well, apparently not. We reported yesterday that a Surrey contractor had been fined £1,000 (plus court costs) after admitting a breach of the Work at Height Regulations.

Fair enough, you might think. But we did a bit more digging and found that the company in question had been found wanting in its working at height procedures on two previous occasions.

Admittedly, those previous breaches took place some 10 years ago. And in that time, it is likely that the management and the personnel will have changed so the chances are that the three breaches were made by different employees.

However, the name above the door has remained the same. If that company had breached financial regulations on three separate occasions, there would be a paper trail and the penalty would be stiffer as a result.

And yet when it comes to the safety of demolition workers, it seems that repeat offenders are treated like first time criminals.

I am certainly not calling for a “three strikes and you’re out” rule. But surely there is room for a sliding scale of justice with one rule for first time offenders and another for those that refuse to learn by previous mistakes.