The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released its annual report on enforcement action and prosecutions for 2016/2017. The financial impact of being found guilty of a health and safety offence is showing a clear upward trend.
This report was the first full 12-month period since the implementation of the new Sentencing Guidelines for Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences, introduced in February 2016. The latest reporting period saw an 80% increase on the 2015/2016 total of £38.8m and a huge 286% increase from the 2014/2015 figures – the last full year before the implementation of the guidelines.
2014/2015 = £18.1m
2015/2016 = £38.8m
2016/2017 = £69.9m
In terms of enforcement action, 2016/2017 also saw:
1. 9,495 enforcement notices issued by the HSE (719 increase on 2015/2016).
2. A 17% decrease in the number of cases prosecuted by the HSE / Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (in Scotland).
3. 93% conviction rate, with 554 cases ending in a conviction.
4. The average fine per case doubled to £126K compared to 2015/2016 and increased by nearly £100K per case compared with 2014/2016 (average fine £29K).
5. 38 fines, each totalling £500K or more, compared with only 14 in 2015/2016.
6. 6% of all convictions ended in a custodial sentence and 12% with a suspended sentence.
It is evident that courts are not afraid to apply the full weight of the guidelines when considering an appropriate penalty. The courts are directed to consider culpability, the seriousness of harm risked and the likelihood of harm, which are divided into several different levels (including company turnover) to reflect the scale within each category.
This level of application is likely to further increase during the 2017 / 2018 period. Therefore, more than ever it is paramount that organisations should be reviewing their level of compliance with health and safety legislation and where necessary taking appropriate action to rectify any shortfalls.
Alcumus have an extensive team of experts on hand to advise, support and deliver Health, Safety and Environmental solutions. Our consultants can help with all HSE requirements and help you implement processes that keep your business compliant.
Data source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/enforcement.pdf?pdf=enforcement.