In February 2016 a new set of sentencing guidelines for breaches of health and safety law was introduced with changes including a new crime of ‘corporate manslaughter’ and higher fines for breaches of the Health and Safety At Work Act, 1974 based upon turnover and the severity of the incident.
The impact these changes have had is huge. In 2016-17 – the first full year that the new sentencing guidelines for safety and health offences were in place – fines reached £69.9m compared with £38.8m for the same period a year earlier.
Of the cases, 206 were in construction – the highest number for any industry in 2016-17 – leading to penalties totalling £15.9m. This figure marks an increase of more than 100% on the 2015-16 figure of £7.9m when 246 cases were convicted.
In the manufacturing industry, fines doubled between 2015-16 and 2016-17, from £12.5m to £25.1m. The number of convicted cases however fell 32% from 210 to 159 during this time.
Agriculture was the only industry where total fines were lower in 2016-17 compared with 2014-15. They fell 13% from £823,900 to £712,700.
Under the new guidelines, the level of fine corresponds to the offending organisation’s turnover. If convicted of a safety and health offence, large organisations that turn over more than £50m and fall into the “very high” culpability category could be fined up to £10m.
In 2016-17, 38 cases received fines over £500,000; the single largest was £5m (for Merlin Entertainments). The 20 largest fines accounted for £30.7m of the £69.9m total.
In 2014-15 period – the last full year before the guidelines – when five cases were at or above £500,000 and the single largest fine was £750,000.
Obviously, we always advocate a strong focus on Health & Safety in the workplace, but these figures should strengthen that focus amongst all businesses. If you would like a free review of your businesses current arrangements, please get in touch.