If it wasn't clear beforehand, it should be clear now – the penalties being handed out for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) are large, and could cripple a business, particularly small operators. There are likely to be companies that will cease trading as a result of a WorkSafe prosecution under the HSWA.

Earlier this week a news article reported the owner of a stump grinding and tree care business complaining that a fine imposed under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 will put him out of business. Media reported StumpMaster Limited was ordered to pay a fine of $90,000, along with reparations of $18,500, as a result of breaches of the HSWA. The breaches were identified by WorkSafe following an incident where a palm tree that was being removed by an employee fell on a woman, resulting in her being hospitalised for six days.

Amidst the outcry in the news media comments sections, it's important to note that this fine was one of the smallest handed out under the HSWA so far. Fines cannot be insured against. Certainly this recent case highlights the need for businesses to have a real focus on health and safety, to ensure an understanding of, and compliance with, the legislation.

The crux of the matter is that we all want our staff to go home from work each day safe. We also want our families and friends to come home from work safe each day. And if the appropriate steps aren't taken to comply with the HSWA, which aims to achieve those goals, WorkSafe will prosecute, and large and potentially crippling fines will follow.

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