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By Rosie Garrigan
In the past 24 hours a rash of data has emerged which taken together paints a worrisome picture for UK company directors.
Headline statistics out today (27 October) from the Health and Safety Executive indicate that the number of workplace fatalities has increased over the past year, from 133 to 142.
Further, research conducted by Cerico, the online compliance solutions business, has found that the number of prosecutions brought for serious wrongdoing has more than doubled in the last three years.
Data obtained by Cerico found that the number of criminal prosecutions brought by the unit within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) responsible for the most complex cases rose from 24 in FY12/13 to 52 in FY14/15.
Our research also highlighted that the use Publicity Orders, which require businesses to publicise penalties, has doubled in the past 12 months.
At a time when some boardrooms may have become fatigued by threats of jail time and significant fines, these numbers hep to focus the mind. Increasing workplace fatalities and increasing enforcement make for a potent mix.
This will be even more the case next year when tough new sentencing guidelines governing financial penalties are introduced.
Under current rules a breach of health and safety law is a criminal offence, punishable in the case of a business by a fine. Currently, where the offence involves a fatality, fines between £100,000 and £500,000 are increasingly common – though larger companies can expect to pay more than £1m.
Company directors found guilty of consent, connivance or neglect relating to incidents are liable for an unlimited fine and prison sentences of up to two years.
Under new guidance wrongdoing could result in fines of up to £20m. The turnover of parent companies may also be considered in how fines are calculated.
Corporates now face a race against time to get their compliance processes in order. However, that isn’t always easy. The problem for so many corporates is that they do want to be compliant, but particularly for sophisticated organisations with huge workforces and outsourced services, that can be incredibly hard. Embedding compliance culture is one of the most significant commercial challenges of the modern commercial era.
The good news is that innovation can help take the heavy-lifting out of the process. We’re increasingly seeing many organisations turn to technology to help bring compliance policies and processes to life. Mobile apps, online learning, cloud-based risk registers and online data capture can make it far easier for individuals to comply. That sort of tech also means those responsible for compliance can have unprecedented visibility over their risk profile – both within their own business and within their supply chain – at any given time such that targeted remedies can be applied.
The bottom line is that technology can help save time, cut cost and reduce risk. And what CEO doesn’t want to hear that?
Rosie Garrigan is a consultant at Cerico, the online compliance solutions business and subsidiary of Pinsent Masons LLP