• Robert Jones

Be Prepared - Or pay the price

In 2016 new guidelines are set to be introduced for health and safety, corporate manslaughter and food / hygiene offences, penalties for most defendants will be higher than previously issued due largly to the guidelines issued to judges.

Although the law itself remains largely unchanged, the main legislation to ensure the health and safety of employees, sub-contractors and visitors / third parties, is still the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Previously, Crown Court judges used experience, judgement and other factors to ascertain the appropriate level of penalty. The new guidelines direct judges to specific starting points in relation to the level of penalty on the financial position of the offending company. The aims are “to ensure all sentences are proportionate to the offence committed and in relation to other offences” . Any fine “should be sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will make clear to both management and shareholders the need to comply with the legislation and achieve a safe environment for works and the public.” [sic] Depending on the severity of the incident, culpability of the offender, and size of the company, fines can range from £100,000 - £450,000 for a small to medium sized company.

For individual offenders, as well as a fine there is also the opportunity for a judge to impose a term of imprisonment. On conviction, a worst case scenario includes:

  • Gross negligence manslaughter - life imprisonment

  • For health and safety offices - 1-2 years custody (starting point is 18 months in custody)

It remains imperative that companies and individuals ensure they have competent health and safety advice, adequate safety management systems, safety policies, procedures and training and monitoring. Record keeping and documentation is vital to prove that you have made every effort to train, supervise and monitor your staff and sub-contractors.

Getting the right advice is important. Knowing that advice is correct and sufficient is another story entirely. Don't just appoint a safety advisor, talk to them, test their knowledge ask for references. There are many practitioners just taking your money working out there dishing out template advice without ever stepping foot on a work site.

Ignorance of the law and your obligations will be no defense against prosecution.

Contact us further information via the contact page.

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