“Company hit with £1 MILLION fine after apprentice died”
“Largest ever fine £2.2m handed to ‘idiotic’ firm after death”
“£3m fine for oil giant as new HSE sentencing guidelines start to bite”
These are all headlines from last year – and the escalating figures are no coincidence. February 2016 saw the introduction of new sentencing guidelines. These have brought a dramatic increase in fines handed out for health and safety offences and corporate manslaughter.
The Health and Safety Executive’s clampdown doesn’t stop with the meteoric rise in financial penalties. Individuals are now more likely to be culpable. There is now a far lower threshold for prison sentences when a director, manager or employee is found guilty.
Everybody’s worst nightmare
A serious or, in worst case, fatal accident at work is obviously deeply distressing for all concerned. The devastating impact for family, friends and colleagues is inevitably accompanied by a loss of trust in the company. Where a tragedy – or even potential tragedy – could have been avoided but for breaches in protective procedures due to consent, connivance or neglect, there have always been financial implications. However, the new ‘Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline’ lifts these to an entirely different scale.
Fines now link to a company’s turnover. The starting point is dependent on the level of culpability, prior record and harm. In the worst cases, the guidelines make clear this could be up to 100% of the firm’s pre-tax net profit for the year in question. For the largest organisations, this could mean fines in excess of £100 million.
Clearly, health and safety must be at the forefront of the minds of everyone working in construction. With the new guidelines, the HSE has made its position abundantly clear. It is now for the coostruction industry to rise to teh challenge.
Previously, fines for a health and safety offence leading to a fatality had a recommended starting point of £100,000. Now a medium-sized company (with a turnover of £20-50 million) could face a figure upward of £4 million. Even an offence by a smaller company without any death carries the potential for fine in the hundreds of thousands.
Since the new guidelines came into play, there have already been 16 penalties of £1 million or more. This compares to a previous total of just 32 since 1975. At the current rate, there could be 30-40 per year. Prior to February 2016, approximately five individuals a year received immediate or suspended custodial sentences. There have been at least 20 since and not all the offences in these latest cases resulted in injury.
There is little doubt that one mistake could put a company’s future in jeopardy – and its management in jail.
Protect your employees – and yourself
Fortunately, few firms intentionally put workers at risk to save money or time, but a simple oversight, rushed decision or shortfall in expert knowledge can have the same disastrous consequences.
With the stakes so high, it is more critical than ever that companies can relieve that pressure with complete faith in the specialists. At Highwire, we not only provide exactly the right height safety equipment for the specific site and project but take all relevant precautions at every stage, from design and installation to maintenance and user training.
Our team has an in-depth understanding of our products and the industry, legislative requirements and up-to-date best practice – but crucially we don’t work in isolation. The new guidelines call for accountability at board level. It is important that those who are ultimately responsible within an organisation are actively engaged with the measures put in place. Only with input from both sides can the solution be carefully tailored to the individual circumstances, and factors such as budget be taken into consideration without any compromise on safety.
Don’t take risks with safety – contact Highwire today – 0161 612 7633