A study has shown larger organisations face the biggest increase in fines for health and safety offences.
This has occurred following the introduction of tougher sentencing guidelines on 1st February 2016.
Impact assessment figures published by the Sentencing Council show fines increased as expected for larger firms. This is because courts under the Council’s Definitive Guidelines must now be guided by an organisation’s financial turnover when considering sentence. Offending organisations are put into categories and their size will determine the recommended punishment they receive.
Courts must also take into account the culpability or fault as well as the degree of actual or potential harm caused.
Sentencing Council figures show the average fine handed to organisations found guilty of health and safety offences rose by almost 450% since the February 2016 guidelines were introduced.
In the ten months before their introduction, convicted companies were on average fined £40,500 for health and safety offences.
Analysis reveals around two-thirds were fined less than £20,000 and only 17% were ordered to pay more than £60,000.
In the ten months after, health and safety fines rose on average 447.4% to £221,700.
Only 31% of organisations received a fine below £20,000.
51% received a fine in excess of £60,000.
Analysis by the Sentencing Council of judges’ sentencing remarks suggests the guidelines are “generally being applied in the manner intended”.
Strong Arm of the Law
Although fine amounts increased for organisations of all sizes, prosecution data from the Health and Safety Executive showed much more noticeable increases in fines handed to “large” and “very large” organisations with a turnover of £50m and over.
Sentencing Council Chairman Lord Justice Holroyde said “The law requires that any fine imposed must reflect the seriousness of the offence and take into account the financial circumstances of the offender. The Council is confident the guideline is achieving this objective and ensuring that where an offence results in the loss of life or very serious injury, fines are sufficiently punitive”.
The Council is to further investigate the operation of the guidelines and consider whether any revision is necessary.
The guidelines cover health and safety offences committed by organisations or individuals in the course of their business activities in England and Wales.
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Health and Safety To-do Checklist
It is vital that your organisation has competent health and safety advice as well as adequate safety management systems, policies, procedures and training. Make sure:
- You receive health and safety advice from a qualified source;
- Risk assessments are carried out and control measures implemented;
- You have documented policies and procedures;
- Your employees receive adequate health and safety training; and
- You have sufficient measures in place to report, audit and review the efficiency of safety management systems.
Given the increased financial penalties, avoiding incidents is now more important than ever. Make sure your business is complying with the law by getting in touch with one of our consultants today.