Editor

October 31, 2016

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Health and Safety Executive

Number of directors prosecuted by HSE trebles in a year

The number of company directors who have been prosecuted for health and safety offences by the HSE has trebled in a year, according to research from a law firm.

Using data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Clyde & Co’s research shows that the number of company directors and managers prosecuted by the HSE in the year to 31 March 2016 was 46, compared to 15 in the previous year.

In contrast, the number of employees who were prosecuted by the HSE in 2015/16 has fallen from 10 in the previous year, to just one.

Chris Morrison, partner and UK head of safety, health and environment at Clyde & Co said that according to the research of the 46 prosecutions in 2015/16, 34 were found guilty and 12 were given prison sentences, with the longest prison sentence imposed at two years.

He said: “The data confirms what we’ve been seeing in practice with the HSE displaying an increased zeal to prosecute the most senior individuals with a business, yet virtually ignoring employees who are frequently more culpable.

“By making senior management responsible for the health and safety failings of their business and their staff, the increased enforcement is a serious boardroom issue.”

 

Chris Morrison continues: “While the majority of director prosecutions relate to SME businesses due to there typically being some form of proximity or nexus with the director, the new game changing sentencing guideline for health and safety breaches with turnover related fines has created a new set of worries for directors of all sized businesses.”

HSE fines on the increase

Following the introduction of the sentencing guidelines in February this year, the value of fines imposed by the HSE is also on the rise.

The total value of fines imposed has risen by 43 per cent compared to the same period last year.

 

Between February 2016 and August 2016, health and safety fines totalled £20.6 million, compared to £14.4 million in February 2015 to August 2015.

Clyde & Co have suggested that the real figure is likely to be higher than the data suggests, as the HSE figures don’t include sentences imposed in cases prosecuted by local authorities.

In the past few weeks alone there have been a number of high value, high profile fines, including:

 

Chris Morrison said: “After decades of relatively stable and predictable fines, the tide is now rising rapidly as the new guideline is applied by the criminal courts.

“The worrying thing for company directors is that fines are now routinely hitting the £1 million mark for non-fatal offences and even those where nobody has been injured meaning that any breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act is now potentially a serious threat to a company’s bottom line.”

The sentencing guidelines for health and safety, corporate manslaughter, food safety and hygiene offences came into force following a consultation in 2105. The size of fine given depends on the size of the company, the level of culpability of the company and the harm caused.

Clyde & Co’s analysis of the sentencing trend suggests that “medium” sized organisations – those with a turnover of between £10m – £50m – are feeling the biggest impact at the moment.

Chris commented: “The definitive guideline on sentencing health and safety matters is biting hard, but there is unquestionably more pain to come. We already know the Court of Appeal has paved the way for fines equal to 100 per cent of a business’ pre-tax net profit with what appears to be a desire to bring regulatory criminal fines in line with financial services fines.”

In June 2015, the Court of Appeal delivered a judgement in a case against Thames Water Utilities Ltd to uphold a £250,000 fine for polluting a nature reserve.

Chris argues that this sends a warning that convicted companies should expect fines to be in the millions of pounds where repeated operational failures occur.

 

Simon Joyston-Bechal, director, Turnstone Law, argued last year that “very large” companies (those whose turnover very greatly exceeds £50m) could face fines in excess of £100m.

Chris Morrison urged directors to pay attention to the fines being imposed: “Whilst health and safety has for many years featured prominently on many Board Meeting agendas, time spent on the point has not necessarily been significant. However, with the risk of turnover related health and safety fines now being so large, they are now material from an accounting and governance perspective which demands that all directors, executive and non-executive alike, sit up and take note.”

 

Latest HSE news

Environmental management services company fined after worker fatally crushed

An environmental management services company has been fined after a worker was fatally injured by a reversing vehicle.

‘Collaboration will be key to implementing cultural change in building safety’ – Peter Baker, Chief Inspector of Buildings, outlines his priorities

As part of the Building Safety Bill’s proposals, a new Building Safety Regulator will be developed to oversee the safety and performance of all buildings. IFSEC Global Editor, James Moore, spoke to Peter Baker, the newly appointed Chief Inspector of Buildings at the HSE, who will lead the programme to develop the role.

School fined after member of the public sustains fatal head injury in fall

A school has been fined after a member of public tripped over a retaining wall and sustained a fatal head injury.

Coronavirus advice for employers

The Government has Government published a four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England and provide a route back to a more normal way of life. Addressing the nation in a Downing Street Press Conference on Tuesday 23 February, PM Boris Johnson said that each step will be assessed against four tests before restrictions ease.

Construction company fined for breaching work at height regulations

A construction company has been fined after HSE inspectors found unsafe working at height practises and unsafe crane operations during a routine inspection.

Construction firm sentenced after worker falls from height

A self-employed labourer fell almost four meters through a fragile skylight while working to fit roof sheets to a newly constructed steel framed barn. He spent nearly two weeks in hospital after being knocked unconscious and suffering head and facial injuries.

Work-related stress and the wellbeing of frontline workers

In episode 9 of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Peter Kelly, Senior Psychologist for the HSE about work-related stress and Inspector Phil Spencer, Blue Light Programme Co-ordinator at Cleveland Police, discusses the stress of working on the frontline during the pandemic.

Garage sentenced after mechanic suffers life-changing injuries in a fall

A garage has been fined after an employee suffered life changing injuries when he fell into a vehicle inspection pit.

Working platform failure leads to fines

Two construction companies have been sentenced following an incident were a working platform failed and a bricklayer using the platform was injured.

4 ways your mind plays tricks when investigating an incident

This article considers a typical incident investigation and uses it to illustrate four common biases we are all prone to – and what we can do to overcome bias when investigating a safety incident.

Gas installer prosecuted for illegal gas work

A gas installer has been sentenced after carrying out gas work that was found to be immediately dangerous whilst no longer being gas safe registered.

Fine after employees exposed to chemical spill

The fabrication division of Nasmyth Technologies Limited has been fined after four employees were exposed to hazardous substances that caused significant ill health and time off work.

£99k fine following construction site fatality

Specialist plant hire company, Ruislip Plant Ltd, has been fined after a worker was fatally injured whilst undertaking maintenance on a piling rig.

Drayton Manor death: £1m fine for safety failings which led to schoolgirl death

Drayton Manor theme park has been fined £1m over the death of an 11-year-old schoolgirl who fell from one of its rides and drowned.

Construction company fined after worker suffered multiple burns

Walden Builders Ltd has been sentenced after a worker was struck by a heated sheet of tin.

Mattress manufacturer fined after employee dragged into machine

A mattress manufacturer has been fined after an employee of the company suffered multiple injuries to his arm, shoulder, ribs and neck after he was drawn into a NG-06 Semi-Automatic Mattress Rolling Machine (MRM).

£500,000 fine after workers were exposed to hand-arm vibration risks

A large Telford-based foundry has been fined after a number of its workers were diagnosed with hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

£250,000 fine after life-changing injuries for employee of construction firm

A construction company has been sentenced after a self-employed ground worker sustained life changing injuries in an incident involving a disc cutter.

‘Government downplaying COVID-19 workplace risk’, report warns

New research from think tank, the Institute of Employment Rights (IER), has found the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace remains significant and is being ‘dangerously downplayed’ by the Government’s ‘light-touch approach’.

Chemical manufacturing company fined £560,000 after employee scalded with boiling water

A chemical manufacturing company, has been fined after an employee was scalded with boiling water during a cleaning operation.

Download: October 2020 Legislation Update

COVID-19 continues to bring unprecedented challenges for people, businesses and societies. To help you navigate the confusing and fast-changing regulations, guidance and legislation – covering not just the coronavirus pandemic, but fire and building safety and the environment – get your free copy of the October 2020 Legislation Update.

    • Latest COVID-19 measures and legislation;
    • Fire safety and post-Grenfell safety regime;
    • Brexit;
    • Environment legislation updates;
    • Latest health and safety fines and prosecutions;
    • And much more...
April 2020 Legislation eBook

Related Topics

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David Horbury
David Horbury
4 years ago

I would love to comment at length If i felt it would make a difference, I am managing director of a uk demolition company, i built the business from nothing to where it is today. The health and safty managment of our country is now profit line driven, their is no reall interest in the working mans health, its about the bottom line, this law will be the downfall of our seriously reduced manufacturing industry,the back bone of our society. Every company executive, every director of small to medium size business knows their work force, sometimes, as in my case,… Read more »

trackback
Number of directors prosecuted by HSE trebles in a year | Ace Office Environments
4 years ago

[…] Number of directors prosecuted by HSE trebles in a year […]