Health & Safety Prosecutions Against Directors ‘Treble In 12 Months’

Health & Safety Prosecutions Against Directors ‘Treble In 12 Months’

While the number of employees prosecuted under the Health and Safety Act has fallen, the number of company directors prosecuted under the Act has climbed, new research from a global law firm has revealed.

In actual fact, the number of prosecuted directors has more than tripled in just one year, the Clyde & Co study revealed. In the year to March 31st 2016, 46 senior managers and company directors were prosecuted for health and safety offences, compared to 15 in the previous year. In comparison, just one employee was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2015/2016, down from ten in 2014/2015.

In the last few weeks alone, there have been several high profile – and high value – fines against companies. For example, Merlin Entertainments was fined £5 million following the Smiler crash that took place in June last year, while Foodles Production was fined £1.6 million and Network Rail was fined £4 million.

Managers would be wise to note that under new guidelines, the value of fines can vary depending on the size of the company involved – but they can go over £20 million for the worst cases, such as those involving corporate manslaughter.

Partner and UK head of safety, health and environment at the law firm Chris Morrison said: “The data confirms what we’ve been seeing in practice with the HSE displaying an increased zeal to prosecute the most senior individuals within a business yet virtually ignoring employees who are frequently more culpable. By making senior management responsible for the health and safety failings of their business and their staff, the increased enforcement is a serious boardroom issue.”

He went on to add that the new sentencing guidelines recently brought in for health and safety breaches, with the fines now related to turnover, has “created a new set of worries for directors of all sized businesses”.

The new guidelines were introduced in February this year, following a consultation held in 2015. They were intended to provide judges with a starting point for fines for those businesses that do commit health and safety offences. Before they were brought in, the guidelines only covered penalties for those offences that resulted in a fatality.

In all, four bands were created based on turnover – micro businesses (with a turnover of up to £2 million), small (with a turnover of between £2 million and £10 million), medium (up to £50 million), and large (over £50 million).

Given these changes, businesses of all sizes would be wise to focus on health and safety training courses to make sure that everyone knows what their responsibilities are and how to go about preventing any serious incidents from occurring.

If you’d like to find out more about these kinds of courses, get in touch with our friendly and experienced team here at Learning Plus today.