Health and Safety Consultancy Services for SMEs in Birmingham, West Midlands and beyond

New health and safety sentencing guidelines begin to bite
Posted by David Cant on June 19, 2017

The health and safety sentencing guidelines begin to bite

Grumpy old judgeChanges to health and safety laws are having an effect – and offenders are paying a heavy price.

When the Government introduced tougher sentencing rules in 2016, the aim was to hit offenders where it hurt – on the company balance sheet. By increasing the severity of fines and punishments, it was hoped that businesses would have more of an incentive to protect their employees.

Now research from law firm BLM suggests that the changes are indeed having an effect.

An enormous increase in fines

According to the report, there were 292 fines issued for health and safety failings between 2016 and 2017. The total paid in fines was more than £61million – an increase of 148% over the previous year before the health and safety came into force.

Much of the increase in costs is believed to be down to the way the new fines are calculated. Rather than assigning a universal figure for offences, fines are now defined according to the size of the business.

This change means that large businesses with a turnover in excess of £50 million could receive fines of £10 million for breaches of health and safety law. Where an employee is killed and the company is found guilty of corporate manslaughter, fines could even top £20 million.

Take Merlin Entertainments for instance. When 16 riders were injured on the Smiler rollercoaster, HSE investigations revealed a number of failings. Because of the size of the company, they were handed a £5 million fine. The final bill would actually have been £7.5 million had Merlin Entertainment not pleaded guilty to the charges brought against them.

Big fines are a reality

BLM also noted that of the 292 fines issued for health and safety breaches during 2016/2017, more than 18 were for sums in excess of £1 million. There was just two of that magnitude during 2015.

It is quite clear that judges are willing and able to use the full force of the law to punish those businesses who fail to protect their workers and the general public. It should also be noted that the construction sector paid the most in fines over the last year.

Protecting your business against fines

Obviously, the most effective way to avoid enormous fines is to meet your responsibilities in the first place. Prevention is always the best approach.

It is also important to note that your business could face prosecution for near misses. Where an onsite near miss has a high likelihood of causing harm, you could still be charged and fined – even if no one is actually seriously injured.

Your first line of defence will always be the humble risk assessment. Make sure you devote sufficient time and resources to properly assessing every onsite activity – you will greatly reduce the risk of an accident, simply because you have tried to identify and mitigate potential dangers.

And if you are ever in doubt, get expert help. Hiring a third party health and safety consultancy like Veritas Consulting is always cheaper than be being prosecuted and fined after an incident.

To learn more about protecting your business and its employees onsite, please get in touch.


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

You can find him across Social media - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Blog

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


(Spamcheck Enabled)

Latest Blog Posts
When employees sabotage their own health and safety When employees sabotage their own health and safety A group of builders has found a loophole in the rules banning shorts on their site... Read More
Could biometric technology help improve construction health and safety Could biometric technology help improve construction health and safety Although it has existed for years, biometrics technology has been restricted to projects requiring the... Read More
5 ways health and safety will make you rich 5 ways health and safety will make you rich There are many excuses given by businesses being prosecuted for health and safety failings, but... Read More
Follow all of the latest Veritas Consulting news on our RSS feed