March 31, 2016
Tougher Sentences for Health & Safety Offences
It’s the biggest change to Health & Safety legislation since the 70s…
Now, serious breaches in Health & Safety legislation can lead to bigger fines and heavier prison sentences.
With magistrates having much more power to issue heavier fines or even jail sentences, employers are now likely to face much harsher penalties for these breaches.
It is vital that employers are aware of the sentencing which follows any prosecution…
What has changed?
- Magistrates have been given the power to use jail sentences in addition to the increased fines introduced a couple of years ago.
- Previously, jail sentences were given more for certain types of breaches but now employers can be sent to jail for most health & safety offence.
- With a new nine tier sentencing approach in court, employers will receive much higher fines and sentences.
- Offences which previously may have been dealt with in the lower courts will now be viewed as more serious, resulting in punishment which is fitting to the offences committed.
If a large business has shown total disregard for the safety of employees or created a very high risk of injury, it can expect a substantial fine or even a jail sentence which is befitting of the offence and proportionate to the financial means of the business.
We could see an increase in fines across the board and many more directors, managers and junior employees will be handed custodial sentences due to a significantly lower threshold for imprisonment.
A smaller business with a turnover of between £2 million and £10 million can expect fines of up to £450,000 where they are found to be highly culpable.
The court will set the levels of fines in line with existing guidelines which reflect the degree of seriousness of the alleged offence whilst taking into account, the financial state of the business.
It must not must not prove to be cheaper to commit the offence than it is to introduce control measures to reduce the risk.
The general message to the courts is to make the fine fit the crime. For some businesses, this could prove to be the final financial straw causing them to fold.
What can a business do to prevent these offences occurring?
Employers should be more aware of the required standards of Health & Safety Management within their business.
This will include risk assessments, HACCPs, training, machine guarding, safe systems of work and general policies and procedures for employees to work with, thus creating a safe place of work.
The sentencing guidelines are in the form of a reference table which highlights the categories the individual offences fall into.