No one could fail to be aware, in recent weeks, of the spotlight placed on health and safety compliance after the disaster at Grenfell Tower.
Following very shortly after the terrible loss of life, the Sentencing Council has announced a consultation to agree on new guidelines for Courts sentencing those prosecuted for manslaughter.
Those of you following the Grenfell Tower case over the next months and years will hear much about corporate manslaughter, but, equally, much about gross negligence manslaughter. This is the offence which, unlike corporate manslaughter, places individuals in the dock.
The gross negligence manslaughter consultation and, ultimately, the guidance will be designed to produce more consistency when dealing with offenders for this offence.
We will keep you posted as to how the consultation and guidance progresses, but one thing which is clear is the criteria that the Courts will use when assessing the culpability of offenders. If you seek to save costs while avoiding adequate safety arrangements, allow failures to persist for weeks or months or longer than necessary, or if you are in a dominant position within a business such that you are able to influence the situation and remedy issues and don’t, the Courts will take a dim view of this and reflect it in any sentence handed down.
The message is clear and will be repeated in the months and years to come, with anticipated prosecutions arising from events such as Hillsborough, Grenfell Tower and others.
Ensure that you have a robust system to deal with health and safety issues, make sure you have competent advice in framing these systems and the auditing of them. Always carefully consider issues where health and safety plays a factor and ensure you can evidence your decision-making process when deciding on one course of action over another.
Only a couple of years ago, it was a government pledge to reduce red tape and bureaucracy to allow businesses the freedom to be entrepreneurial. I noticed only the other day a call by a number of pressure groups to disregard this pledge and more heavily regulate businesses and organisations in the area of health and safety.
Agree with it or not, stringent regulation with severe penalties is here to stay.