Fines for Health and Safety offences could be on the increase. How could they affect your organisation?

In 2015 the Sentencing Council, which is a Government body which sets recommendations of fines, consulted on new fines for the levels of penalty for corporate manslaughter and for Health and Safety offences.

Fines for Health and Safety offences have been for a long time related to the type of offences being committed, how serious it is and the level of damage that is caused. The more blatant the failure, the more serious the fines are. Typically, under Health and Safety Law, fines in the Courts have been, for large organisations in the hundreds of thousands – occasionally in the millions. The Sentencing Council has looked at a new range of fines for both manslaughter and Health and Safety offences. These guidelines suggest a real step change in the levels of fines for such offences and corporate manslaughter prosecutions. For large organisations the level of fines being suggested are in the order of up to £20 million for corporate manslaughter and in the range £2.7 to £10 million pounds for serious Health and Safety offences. Even for micro organisations with a turnover of less than £2 million, fines of up to £800,000, into the millions, for corporate manslaughter are being suggested.

These are major changes in what an organisation may expect in the future, particularly for serious Health and Safety offences which could give rise to significant problems. There doesn’t need to have been an actual accident in these cases, certainly not for Health and Safety offences. The potential for an accident or serious incident can be taken into account, so if there were poor practices which could have killed someone, then the fines could be really very substantial indeed.

For large organisations, the guidelines relate to companies with a turnover of above £50 million. Some companies have a turnover greatly in excess of £50 million and the guidelines suggest that even the top level of fines may therefore not be high enough. There are suggestions for large organisations with a high level of culpability, that fine levels of the entirety of their pre-tax profits should be considered. Some large organisations have profit levels of hundreds of millions of pounds, so we could see fines in the same arena as for financial impropriety in the City. These levels of fines could be threatening to the existence of the organisation and its reputation.

If you’re concerned about how to avoid these fines, by improving the Health and Safety in your organisation, please call us on 0118 929 9920 or click here to contact us.

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