Looking through the press over the past 12 months we have often see reference to Director and Senior Manager Prosecutions for health and safety offences. A recent one involved a Director slammed for lying about the safety failings at his company (that led to an explosion at the company factory). The Director was fined £22,500 + costs of £2,500.
In a separate case taken by the Fire Authority a Director had to pay out more than £260,000 in fines and costs for fire safety failures.
This apparent increase in taking Directors to court got us thinking: “has something changed in the HSE approach?”. Over a recent 5 year period the average number of Directors successfully prosecuted has been only 10 per year; however this seems to have risen dramatically.
Researching this it has been identified that in fact there has been a dramatic increase in 2011. The HSE initiated court action against 42 Directors or Senior Managers in the last 12 months, from which 35 successful prosecutions were achieved.
This shows both an 80% success rate for the HSE and that they are much more inclined to take senior officers to court.
So is this because the HSE are trying to send a message out that senior people in an organisation need to take personal responsibility for health and safety implementation? We think it is and that it shows how individuals can no longer hide behind the company – they have to take a personal interest in making health and safety work in their organisation.
To do this though they need to understand what the law requires and therefore need to have access to competent health and safety advice. We would suggest that taking action on this is now even more important because the HSE have shown failures to take control will result in a court visit.