Two prosecutions of major UK companies have shown the significance of the changes to sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences.
Over the past two years, the British Safety Council (BSC) has argued that the planned changes to the sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences would result in significantly greater fines.
Big fines a reality
Neal Stone, Policy and Standards Director at the BSC, says the conviction of Travis Perkins at Aylesbury Crown Court, following the death of Mark Pointer in November 2012, and the conviction of Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions Ltd at Preston Crown Court, following the death of James Sim in April 2010, show courts are getting tough.
He says the possibility of significantly larger fines are now a reality.
Travis Perkins was fined £2m and Balfour Beatty £2.6m following convictions for breaches of health and safety law.
The BSC publicly supports the changes to the sentencing guidelines and believes the Sentencing Council has adopted the right approach, with the courts now being required to assess the culpability of the defendant, the degree of actual or potential harm caused and the financial turnover of the organisation, says Mr Stone.
Business could go under
As the guidelines make clear, there will be occasions when the fines imposed will be so large that they will lead to closing down the offending business.
Despite the positive changes, Mr Stone says the BSC is concerned over the length of time it took for the cases to come to court – four years in the case of Travis Perkins and six years in the case of Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions.
Large fines will not be effective if they do not contribute to greater compliance, he adds.
Source: British Safety Council
Date Published: May 27, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown