Posted on

Health and Safety Sentencing – 2 years on!

As those of you who have been reading my commentary on the sentencing guidelines since their introduction will know, there has been a significant rise in the fines handed down by the Courts since the guidelines came in two years ago.

In effect, the guidelines set a tariff for the Courts to follow when dealing with offenders under health and safety, corporate manslaughter and food safety legislation.

Recently released figures show that, in the period 2015/2016 before the guidelines came into effect, total fines imposed were £38.8 million.

Contrasting this with the first full year when the guidelines were in operation, a rise in fines to £69.9 million occurred.

This gives an average fine per offence of £126,000. In order to put that into context, when I started practising in this area, the average fine for a health and safety offence nationally ranged between £5,000 and £7,000.

Whether you operate in the private or public sector, whether you are a small or a large organisation and whether you are prosecuted because someone is injured or killed or where just a risk exists and no injury has been caused, the fine levels are significant.

I know I am in danger of repeating myself, but you cannot prepare and protect yourself enough in terms of health and safety as well as food safety.

Take expert advice, review your documentation, police your systems and record the results. The best way to prevent having to pay a significant fine is ensuring that you never have an accident or risk in the first place. There is no fool-proof solution, but robust systems, equally robustly policed are your best defence.