One year on: Health and Safety Sentencing Guidelines

With time flying by for the first couple of months of 2017 then our regular updates have had to take somewhat of a back seat. However, we recently came across an article from our friends at Allianz outlining how stricter sentencing guidelines introduced last year under the Health and Safety at Work Act introduced tougher consequences for offenders. Now, just over one year on, companies are feeling the effects financially as a consequence of the significant increase on fines.

By way of explanation, from 1 February last year, Health and Safety offences received substantially higher fines, with large organisations looking at fines exceeding £1million.

The changes were potentially one of the most significant developments in Health and Safety law in 40 years. They were introduced to ensure a consistent, fair and comprehensive approach when sentencing individuals convicted of offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
A year has now passed since these sentencing guidelines were first introduced and they’ve already resulted in numerous convictions. From February 2016 to November 2016, more fines in excess of £1 million were issued than in the previous 42 years, since the Health and Safety at Work Act was implemented. Furthermore, across a total of 80 cases, the average level of fine in that 10 month period was around £780,000.

It’s not a regulation that has escaped the motor industry, with recent tragedies highlighting just how important it is to ensure that companies follow the regulations set out under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Case studies: Bath tipper truck and exploding tyre disasters

Earlier this year the CEO and mechanic of a haulage company were sentenced to seven and a half and five years, three months for manslaughter, after a 32-tonne truck with faulty brakes killed four people. During the trial, it transpired that the company had failed to carry out the correct safety checks and that the vehicle was not roadworthy.

Furthermore, in June of last year, a tyre company was fined £1 million after an employee was repairing a puncture to the tyre of a ‘dresser loading shovel’ when it exploded, fatally injuring him. An investigation found that the employee was working alone with inadequate work equipment which was not properly maintained. He wasn’t trained or competent to undertake the work he was told to complete.

Cases such as these highlight the crucial importance of strict and comprehensive Health and Safety guidelines and the need to enforce these. While the new sentencing guidelines may have made some good progress in cracking down on those who don’t conform, there is clearly still work to do in communicating just how vital it is to have the correct Health and Safety measures in place.

Steps organisations can take include continuing to review risk assessments, ensuring that Health and Safety practices are audited and that all risk prevention systems are in full working order.