Is Health & Safety Enforcement On The Rise?

Posted on written by Sam Barton

Health and safety breaches and accidents at work not only cost £5.3 billion to the British economy every year but companies have to pay out larger fines than ever before.

We touched on the subject of maximum health and safety fines previously and what the change in legislation from 12th March 2015 meant for companies who were held liable for accidents or fatalities at work.

This week we want to revisit the 2016-17 HSE statistics that we looked at a couple of weeks ago to see if enforcement for breaches of health and safety is on the rise.

Comparing The Numbers From Last Year

In 2015-16 there were 660 cases that were prosecuted, or had been referred to COPFS (The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) for prosecution in Scotland, by the HSE that in the end resulted in a conviction for the 2015/16 period.

The number for the period 2016-17 dipped to 554 cases. That being said, the number of notices issued by all the enforcing bodies rose in 2016-17 to 11,913 (from 11,403 the previous year).

In fact, this rise in notices being issued has gone against the grain in recent years where there has been a downward trend however one of the big talking points is the big increase in fines.

Why Have Fines Nearly Doubled?

In 2015-16 fines amounted to £38.3 million however in 2016-17 this jumped to £69.9m.

The reason for this is that 2016-17 is the first full year that the new legislation governing health and safety fines has been in operation. Prior to March 2015, fines were capped at £20,000 for health and safety breaches. For 2016-17 there was no maximum fine and the new sentencing guidelines dictate that the fine should be related to the turnover of the company. This means that larger companies can be fined a lot more than in previous years hence the big increase from 2015-16.

For example, a recycling company in Ancaster was fined £880,000 after the fatality of an agency worker and a plastic and paper manufacturing company in Yardley near Birmingham was fined £100,000 when a worker suffered substantial injuries at work.

Will Health & Safety Enforcement Rise In The Future?

Even though enforcement was down in the past year, fines have increased rapidly due to the new legislation and removal of the maximum fine cap.

The number of fatalities across Great Britain might have decreased (although it went up in Scotland) however the cost of workplaces injuries has increased as well. Enforcement may be slightly down this year and the number of reported non-fatal injuries saw a decrease too (from 72,702 in 2015-16 to 70,116 in 2016-17) but the onus is on companies, directors, managers and supervisors to ensure a safe working environment for everyone.

Enforcement may rise next year however the extensive fines that can now be issued when a company is liable for accidents, injuries or even death in the workplace means that more businesses are now taking extra precautions to ensure the safety or their staff and the public.

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