Higher Fines Working in Britain, IOSH Reports

"There is no doubt that the sharp increase in fines over the past two years is the subject of regular discussion in boardrooms up and down the country," two lawyers report on the second anniversary of the new sentencing guildline.

A new sentencing guideline for health and safety and other offenses in the United Kingdom took effect in February 2016. Two years later, Matthew Breakell and Charlotte Miles, associate and solicitor at DAC Beachcroft, report in an article on the IOSH website that several high fines have been issued in the interim, and they will continue to be.

"It is two years since the implementation of the UK Sentencing Council's Definitive Guideline for the Sentencing of Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences. In 2017 we saw, as predicted, that the courts weren't shy about imposing high fines for organisations and custodial sentences for individuals for breaching health and safety legislation," they write, adding that the main focus of the guideline is to ensure fines are sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to comply with health and safety regulations.

"A significant number of cases have attracted fines in excess of £1m, many in non-fatal cases, and this is a trend that is likely to continue," they report.

2016/17 data on prosecutions released by the Health and Safety Executive shows a large annual increase in fines, they write: In 2015/16, the total fines for health and safety offenses was £38.8 million, but this climbed to £69.9 million in 2016/17. The average fine per case in 2016/17 was approximately £126,000, more than twice the average of a year earlier.

"There is no doubt that the sharp increase in fines over the past two years is the subject of regular discussion in boardrooms up and down the country," they add.

Their article lists a handful of the notable fines in 2017, including:

  • London and Southeastern Railways and Wetton Cleaning Services Ltd were fine £2.5m and £1.1m, respectively, after an employee of Wetton Cleaning Services was electrocuted after falling on a 750-volt live rail during his shift at LSER's depot.
  • Iceland Foods Ltd was fined £2.5m in a case involving a contractor hired to replace filters within an air conditioning unit at the company's warehouse who fell three meters from a platform through a suspended ceiling and sustained fatal injuries.
  • Warburtons Ltd was fined £1.9m in July because an agency worker was cleaning parts of the bread line at the company's site and his arm became trapped between two conveyor belts, leaving him with friction burns which required skin grafts.

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