Is the impact of the revised sentencing guidelines hitting home?

Mark Owen – Health & Safety Expert

October 10 2016

All businesses recognise their need to meet their health and safety responsibilities, but have the revised sentencing guidelines really made a difference? We take a look at some recent cases... It’s no coincidence that large parts of British and International Standards have virtually the same requirements for under-pinning management systems and arrangements, such as:
  • Quality (ISO9001)
  • Environmental management (ISO14001)
  • Health and safety (OHSAS18001)
  • Information security, (ISO27001)
They’re designed to maintain and improve an effective, efficient business and to demonstrate that it’s being managed in an exemplary manner. A business that gets it right first time:
  • Reduces wastage
  • Is more efficient
  • Sees an increase in reputation
  • Has stable insurance premiums
  • Suffers minimal impact from official sources
  • Has a contented workforce
  • Is more profitable
Similarly, members of our health and safety service recognise the benefits of competent health and safety advice and audits, ensuring they move towards achieving compliance with legislation and best practice, and minimise accidents and incidents. It gives them the ability to concentrate on their core processes and grow their business. Recent examples The introduction of revised sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences earlier this year (see previous editions) has led to significant increases in penalties. Now more than ever, it’s essential to get it right when managing compliance with health and safety requirements. The £5million fine recently imposed on Alton Towers following last year’s roller coaster accident made headline news – but few noticed that at roughly the same time, Balfour Beatty announced that they were setting aside £25 million against future health and safety penalties. Chief Executive Leo Quinnsaid that the reserve was “prudent” in the light of the guidelines, that the level of expected fines had increased “tenfold” and the new levels were “pretty large and drastic”. This provision followed:
  • A £1 million fine after a highways worker sustained fatal head injuries when his team was left to improvise a method for removing concrete footings.
  • A £2.6 million fine over the death of a worker, when a trench collapsed while laying cables for an offshore windfarm.
Other recent examples of large penalties include:
  • A manufacturing company fined £1million plus costs, after a worker was crushed whilst involved in moving a large machine. The work had not been properly planned and the workers were not sufficiently trained or experienced.
  • A care home operator fined £1.5m plus £200K in costs after an elderly resident died following a fall down a set of steps. In a linked case, the care home manager landed a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, with costs of £20K.
  • The principal contractor of a large housing development project in Surrey fined £800,000 plus £10,984 costs after a worker was run over and severely injured by a heavy goods vehicle.
While these huge numbers won’t apply to small businesses, it’s important to remember that they’re based on turnover, not profit. They’ll apply in the same proportion to even the smallest of businesses, and therefore have the same impact as in the largest. Peninsula members who take our Health and Safety service will always have the assurance of access to:
  • The latest information and guidance on legal and best practice standards.
  • Routine safety management audits by trained, qualified professionals.
  • The comfort of a 24 Hour Advice Service (0844 892 2772) to which they can refer at times of need.

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