Arinite Blog


Health & Safety Sentences Increasing as Predicted

Category: Health & Safety | Jan Mirkowski Twitter | Published on: Oct 17, 2018 | Updated: Oct 17, 2018 Read more: Health & Safety

Bryan’s Blog post of December 2016 predicted that large companies could face fines of over £10 million for the most serious health and safety offences.

Already the biggest fines of £1,000,000 or more during the year following the post included:

  • Explore Manufacturing fined £1.3m over prefab panels crush.
  • London and South Eastern Railway and cleaning firm fined £3.6m after worker fell on live rail.
  • Howden Joinery fined £1.2m after HGV driver crushed by overloaded forklift.
  • Sembcorp Utilities (UK) Limited fined £1.35m after failed pressure test injured worker.
  • Crossrail contractor Bam Ferrovial Kier fined £1m after three incidents.
  • Aldi fined £1 million after ‘serious failings’ led to driver losing toes.
  • Iceland Foods fined £2.5m after missing handrail led to fatal fall.
  • Warburtons fined £1.9m for worker’s friction burns.
  • South West Water fined £1.8m after lone worker drowns.
  • Nottinghamshire County Council fined £1m when tractor collision in a country park injured a walker.
  • Essar fined £1.65m for Stanlow refinery blast.
  • Furniture giant DFS fined £1m after worker knocked out by unsecured load.
  • KFC fined £1m after workers burned by microwaved gravy.
  • Wilko fined £2.2m after ignoring warnings about lift faults.

And for some unfortunate individuals:

  • Three company bosses jailed following the death of 25-year-old who fell from a roof he was working on.
  • Maximum jail term of two years’ imprisonment for plant hire manager following fatal incident.
  • Construction director jailed for 14 months over two balcony fall deaths.

One thing that all the above individuals probably held in common is that they began their working day with no concept of an accident occurring that would expose serious flaws in their companies’ management of health and safety.

In that regard the Managers are probably little different from mine or yours – just trying to go about their daily business with no expectation of one day being summoned to face criminal charges.

Do you have peace of mind?

Can you be certain that your health and safety management systems are adequate, and that if an accident should occur, you would be able to demonstrate in court that you had done everything “reasonably practicable” to prevent it?

In a further twist of the screw, the Sentencing Council has published definitive guidelines for those convicted of manslaughter offences in England and Wales.  Effective 1st November 2018 and marks the first time that comprehensive guidelines have been drawn up for these very serious and difficult cases, which could range from an unintended death resulting from an assault, to a workplace fatality caused by a negligent employer.

The guidelines will apply to individuals convicted of:

  • Unlawful act manslaughter (up to 24 years’ custody);
  • Gross negligence manslaughter (up to 18 years’ custody);
  • Manslaughter by reason of loss of control (up to 20 years’ custody); or
  • Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility (up to 40 years’ custody).

(Note: these sentencing guidelines are distinct from Corporate Manslaughter guidelines which came into effect on 1st February 2016 based on the size and turnover of the organisations with a starting fine of £300,000 and a no limit maximum.)

Interestingly, not all of the cases cited above involved fatal injuries, yet the fines were much higher than would have been seen just a few years ago.  When I started my career in health & safety, it was rare to see fines for a workplace fatality in excess of £1m.  Now, the opposite is true, and it will become rare to see fines of less than £1m where there has been a workplace fatality.

Doubtless, the upward trend will be seen to continue when the HSE releases its next set of statistics on 31st October 2018.

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Jan Mirkowski

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