The increase follows a change in legislation made effective February 2016 by the Sentencing Council, under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
The new guidelines were imposed for health and safety, food hygiene and corporate manslaughter offences. The court must now consider culpability, seriousness and likelihood of harm as well as the size of a business / its turnover when imposing fines. Health and Safety offences are concerned with failures to manage risks to health and safety and do not require proof that the offence caused any actual harm. The offence is in creating a risk of harm.
According to insurance and risk law firm BLM, the total value of health and safety fines issued to UK companies in 2016 was more than double that of the previous year, with businesses being forced to pay out more than £61m in this regard. Figures show that eighteen fines were issued last year compared to only two in 2015. This includes the £5m fine issued to Alton Towers’ operator Merlin Entertainments following the Smiler rollercoaster crash, which remains the largest ever from a single incident. Fines for the construction sector were the most costly, with a bill of almost £14m. This was followed by manufacturing (£12m), utilities (£8.4m), leisure (£7.4m), logistics / transport (£7.2m), industrial (£3.9m) and public sector (£2.6m).
The sentencing guidelines indicate that the level of fine should reflect the extent to which the offender fell below the required standard. It should meet, in a fair and proportionate way, the objective of punishment, deterrence and the removal of any gain through the commission of the offence. It should not be cheaper to offend than to take the appropriate precautions. All fines must be sufficiently substantial to have real economic impact, which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to comply with health and safety legislation.
Grahame Barker, Health & Safety Consultant at EML, comments:
“These new guidelines send out a powerful message to all organisations. Health and safety is both people and business critical. Therefore, decisions about safety processes and systems should be a Board level priority. The cost of getting it wrong has never been higher – this has been a game-changing 12 months for health and safety in the workplace.”
If you need any further information or assistance in the development of your safety systems or practices, or any other Health & Safety matter, please contact one of our consultants without delay for a free, no obligation discussion.