Health and safety is a top priority for all companies; and health and safety failures are now becoming a huge business risk!
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities are clamping down on businesses that are failing to comply; and new sentencing guidelines, which were introduced on 1st February 2016, toughened penalties for health and safety, food safety and corporate manslaughter offences.
These guidelines ensure a consistent, fair and proportionate approach to sentencing organisations or individuals convicted of corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety and hygiene offences.
According to the Sentencing Council, the introduction of the guidelines means that in some cases, offenders will receive higher penalties, particularly large organisations committing serious offences – such as when an organisation is convicted of deliberately breaking the law and creating a high risk of death or serious injury. Offences that come under the guidelines are varied and could include a building firm that causes the death of an employee by not providing the proper equipment for working at height; a restaurant that causes an outbreak of E. coli poisoning through unsafe food preparation; or a manufacturer that causes injury to a new worker by not providing training for operating machinery.
Since the sentencing guidelines were introduced in 2016, the manufacturing sector, along with the construction industry, are facing the majority of fines - with millions of pounds having to be paid out in the last year!
According to a research report from global law firm Clyde & Co, the value of fines collected for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities has doubled in a year.
Data obtained directly from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and over 300 local authorities shows that the total value of fines collected from businesses increased to £76.7m in the first year of the new sentencing guidelines (year end 31 January 2017), up from £36.2m in the previous 12 months!
The scale of fines varies according to the turnover of the company, but can exceed £20m for the very worst cases involving corporate manslaughter, and potentially more for the largest companies.
The amount collected in fines by the HSE increased by 74% during the first year of the new sentencing guidelines, up from £35.5m to £61.6m.
The total sum collected by local authorities showed an even greater increase of 1,870% over the same time – which is a colossal amount! Fines collected by local authorities in the last year rose to £15.2m, up from £0.8m in the previous 12 months.
Clyde & Co explains that the HSE has enforcement oversight of 'higher risk sectors' including construction and manufacturing; while local authorities are responsible for the enforcement of 'lower risk sectors', such as retail, leisure, hospitality, care, catering, warehousing and office space.
With fines now costing businesses vast sums, plus potential damage to corporate reputation, it is therefore vital that all companies place health and safety as a leading priority.