0800_ 710 1099    info@abromhead.co.uk
A Bromhead
  • “Kept me interested and eager to absorb knowledge at all times”
    Andrew Kozuszkiewicz, Site Supervisor, Cardinal Newman College

A Bromhead

Tough New Sentencing Guidelines for Health and Safety Breaches

01 February 2017

In our last post we reported on how two companies were fined substantial sums for health and safety breaches. The significant size of the fines was related to the new sentencing guidelines which became law in England and Wales in February 2016.

In fact, in the Burger King case, the company in breach – KFG Quickserve – was actually subjected to two fines: one was pre-sentencing penalties for breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 before 12 March 2015 (£13,300) and the other was post-sentencing penalties for a breach of the same regulation after 12 March 2015 (£153,360).

The new sentencing guidelines are applicable to health and safety, food safety and corporate manslaughter offences. They followed a consultation in 2015 and are designed to provide judges with a starting point for fines for companies that commit health and safety offences.

A Stark Warning to Businesses

According to Laura Cameron of legal firm Pinsent Masons, the new regulations should warn businesses that there is no room for failing to meet duties and obligations. “Businesses have been sent a clear message that the regulatory authorities expect health and safety to remain a key corporate priority… If they are not already doing so, directors should be pushing health and safety issues to the top of their agenda,” she said.

There is a sharp difference between the old and new regimes and large companies committing highly serious offences will face penalties that are ‘fair and proportionate to seriousness of the offence and the means of the offenders’.

How do the Guidelines Work?

Courts are now required to run an initial assessment as to the overall seriousness of the offence. This should be based on the offender’s culpability and the risk of serious harm, whether or not any harm was actually caused. This was indeed regarded in the Burger King case where the judge considered the fact that although the worker suffered scalds and scarring and had to take a month off work, the situation could have been far worse – there could have been a fall leading to further injuries, burns of a more serious degree, and other workers could also have been injured due to the spillage of hot oil on the stairs.

There is a range of possible fines based on the seriousness of the offence and this will differ depending on the size of the organisation and its turnover or equivalent. Mitigating factors can be taken into account and the guidelines include a list of such, which include a previously unblemished record or evidence of steps having been taken to remedy the flaws that led to the incident, as well as the degree of co-operation with the investigation.

Contrary to this, there is also a list of aggravating features for the judge to consider, which may include a history of similar offences, or whether financial gain was associated with the breach.

What Does the New Sentencing Involve?

Company directors who are found guilty of ‘consent, connivance or neglect’ will be subject to unlimited fines and prison sentences of up to two years. Previously only the crown court could levy unlimited fines, but these are now possible in the magistrates’ courts.

What Does all This Mean for Manual Handling Issues?

The scale of the potential fines and sentences for breach of health and safety guidelines means that companies should be focusing attention on getting their houses in order with regard to undertaking site-specific risk assessments for manual handling risks and ensuring that manual handling training plays a fundamental role.

Manual handling training courses are a cost effective way to ensure staff are properly trained in all aspects of the handling they are expected to undertake. Considering the potential fines associated with getting it wrong, such a course is guaranteed to deliver a return.

The Alistair Bromhead Ltd manual handler training course is provided by highly experienced trainers and it can be fully tailored to suit the specific needs of individual companies as well as being held onsite so that the precise risks that are faced by the handlers are covered. The course is suitable for individual and team handling situations and includes interactive, practical handling exercises that cover a range of representative loads. Also offered is a manual handling risk assessor certificate course and for those organisations wishing to bring training in-house, a City & Guilds accredited manual handling train the trainer course.

For more information or to book a course, please get in touch.

Other News