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October 27, 2015

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Health and safety criminal prosecutions on the rise, says Cerico


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 

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Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
8 years ago

Mmmm, maybe as Work Stress is the subject of next weeks EU Summit in Bilbao (3-4th Nov) the continued growth in dependence and use of display screens for business management, control, e-learning etc. etc. will prompt a review of the reasons for delaying ratification of the new EU MSD Directive for over three years ????

8 years ago

I have absolutely no sympathy with these companies CEO’s and senior managers, etc. They are corporate killers on a grand scale. They have had years and years of using the ‘white collar crime’ defence. It is now time for a true penalty regime to be applied [long overdue actually] What these people need is a completely different mindset not some whizzy tech. There is no heavy lifting required just real concern and commitment to having all your staff go home with all their bits in the same state. You wouldn’t think it was so hard, until of course you look… Read more »