The price of the new health and safety guidelines

New guidelines, which took effect on 1 February 2016, have meant significant increases in the severity of fines imposed on UK businesses for breach of Health and Safety regulation. But how many business owners and managers are aware of this?

Did you know that in 2016 alone, a staggering 19 UK companies were fined £1m or more for Health and Safety regulation failure? Compare that to the 3 fines of £1m or more in 2015 and the zero amounts of £1m or over fines in 2014 – and it’s clear to see the impact these new guidelines are going to make.

Tougher penalties for businesses

Under the tougher sentencing guidelines laid down in 2016, courts in England and Wales can now impose penalties on companies in breach of Health and Safety regulation up to:

  • £10m for organisations with turnovers of over £50m
  • £4m for medium sized organisations with turnovers of between £10m and £50m
  • £1.6m for small organisations with turnovers of between £2m and £10m
  • £450,000 for micro-businesses with turnovers of less than £2m
  • Two years imprisonment for individuals held responsible for serious accidents

And 18 months on

It’s been 18 months since the new guidelines took effect. The following figures combine the total cost of the 20 heaviest fines for breaches of Health & Safety regulations since 2014:

  • £38.6m in 2016
  • £13.5m in 2015
  • £4.3 m in 2014

As you can see, the stark figures from 2016 clearly highlight the determination of courts to get their message across that a breach of Health and Safety regulations will not be ignored – and if they are, their willingness to hit businesses where it hurts most.

Only last month a joinery company from Rugby was fined £230,000 plus costs, for failing to check if its workers had received the necessary refresher training to safely operate their machinery, after an accident resulted in an employee losing the tip of his thumb and most of his first finger.

So, how do you protect your business from these types of penalties?

Without doubt, the most effective way to avoid severe fines, and in the worst-case scenario even a custodial sentence, is to fully adhere to your Health and Safety responsibilities in the first place. Prevention is always the best approach, so a deep-rooted focus on workplace Health and Safety procedure should always be your top priority.

Where’s the best place to start?

Ensuring you have a good understanding of the health and safety risks involved in running your business, and having practical systems in place to keep your employees safe, is always the best place to start. To learn more about SML Health and Safety services, contact us.

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