From the 1st February 2016 the new sentencing guidelines came into force and are considered to provide a significant threat to any business falling foul of Health & Safety legislation. Many legal commentators are suggesting that businesses are likely to see a 5-10 fold increase in the fines that can be expected. Additionally, it has been said that an unintentional but very real outcome will be that many more managers and directors are likely to receive prison sentences if deemed negligent.
So is your business and its directors aware of and ready to defend a health & safety prosecution?
The sentencing changes have come about as penalties have been seen to be too low and the changes come into immediate effect; no matter when the offence was committed. The changes aim to:
- Provide a consistent approach;
- Remove economic gain;
- Change behaviour of businesses;
- Achieve compliance.
The legislation provides a prescriptive tariff-based approach based upon culpability, harm (or risk of harm) and the size of the organisation (based upon turnover). The penalties will have a calculated starting point and a range of fine (to provide the court with flexibility & discretion).
For the business and directors they will be measured against the extent to which expected standards are not met, the state of mind and a range of objective factors. The worse the health & safety systems and performance then the more likely that a higher level of culpability will be found.
It is likely that a business will be potentially most at risk when it:
- Doesn’t have effective Health & Safety systems in place;
- Fails in risk assessments;
- Doesn’t manage situations that arise;
- Doesn’t manage its staff;
- Doesn’t make the most of learning opportunities.
The likely trends are for significantly increased levels of fines, more persons facing imprisonment, and more cases being contested in the court of appeal.