Company directors prosecuted for poor Health & Safety triples

Hundreds of thousands of work-related injuries and instances of ill health are reported every year.

The employers responsible can face unlimited fines and even prison sentences. 

The worrying statistics

There were 144 fatal injuries in British workplaces in 2017/18. The main causes were falling from a height and being struck by a moving vehicle or object.

In 2016/17, 1.3 million people suffered from work-related ill health and 13,000 deaths were linked to past exposure to chemicals and dust at work. Ill health can also include mental health conditions like stress, depression and anxiety – which represents 49% of all working days lost to ill health. 

In the same period, 507,000 people suffered from work-related musculoskeletal disorders, and 609,000 non-fatal injuries were reported to the Labour Force Survey.

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The industries most at risk

According to Health and Safety Executive, the industries with the highest rates of work-related ill health are:

  • Human health and social work
  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
  • Public administration and defence
  • Education

Industries with the highest number of work-related injuries are:

  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
  • Construction
  • Transport and storage
  • Accommodation and food services
  • Public administration and defence
  • Wholesale and retail

Courts are getting tougher on employers

For health and safety offences committed since 12th March 2015, employers could face an unlimited fine. Fines are now based on the organisation’s turnover, meaning large organisations will receive the biggest fines. 554 cases were prosecuted in 2016/17 resulting in £69.9 million in fines.

Courts can force employers to pay compensation to affected staff. The court will take into account loss suffered by the victim and decide on an appropriate amount.

There are also legal implications for individual directors and business owners, who could also be slapped with a maximum jail sentence of 6 months. 

Recent Health & Safety prosecutions

Health and safety sentencing rules have become stricter in the last couple of years. The total number of company directors prosecuted rose from 15 in 2015 to 46 in 2016.

  • A manufacturer was fined £14,000 when a worker suffered injuries after a stack of wooden boards fell over.
  • Roofing related falls were in court on several occasions in 2018. Three businesses were fined £65,000, £53,000, and £200,000
  • When someone lost three fingers in a cutting machine, a packaging company was fined £50,000 because they didn’t take steps to remove the risk.
  • In 2017, a waste disposal company director was investigated for several health and safety breaches. He was given a 3 month suspended sentence and a 12 month sentence for two separate incidents.
  • Four managers of a furniture factory received suspended sentences and were disqualified from acting as company Directors for 5 years in 2016. Inspections found they weren’t protecting staff from wood dust, glues, and high-risk machines.

Health & Safety breaches can be as serious as deliberate negligence and as simple as a faulty plug socket. It’s essential for company directors to take compliance seriously and keep their staff safe.

Ellis Whittam can provide dedicated, qualified health and safety advisors. We use our legal knowledge to give businesses of all sizes personal and practical support at a fair, fixed price.

Book a free consultation with a health and safety consultant and find out how to become fully compliant.

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ONLINE TRAINING | IOSH Safety for Executives and Directors

Looking to improve your understanding of health and safety, demonstrate your commitment to employee wellbeing, and protect your business from prosecution? Learn essential skills in effective risk management, including how to create a COVID-secure workplace, with this one-day course for business owners, senior managers and directors.

29 September 2020 | 09:00 – 16:30

Director of Health & Safety Services

Nick Wilson

Health and safety should be a priority for any business but ensuring compliance can often feel like a daunting task. We’re here to help you turn complex regulations into sensible, proportionate controls.

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