Health & Safety Law

New Health & Safety Prosecution Guidelines

Posted By Kerry Budworth on 2015-11-10 09:42

New Health & Safety Sentencing Guidelines

NEW sentencing guidelines that have been published by the Sentencing Council will ensure a consistent, fair and proportionate approach to sentencing organizations or individuals convicted of corporate manslaughter or health and safety offences.

Up to now, there has been limited guidance for judges and magistrates in dealing with what can be complex and serious health & safety offences that do not come before the courts as frequently as general criminal offences.  However, publication the new guidelines, which will come into effect from 1 February 2016, will ensure that there is comprehensive sentencing guidelines in place for the very first time. The guidelines cover the most commonly sentenced health and safety offences in England and Wales.

The introduction of these guidelines will mean that in some cases, offenders will receive far higher penalties than would have been the case in the past. In particular, the guidelines will affect large organizations committing serious offences. The Sentencing Council said that it wants fines to be fair and proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the means of offender. In simple terms it means that the turnover of the offender will be used to identify the ‘starting point’ of the fine. The sentencing ranges will also take into account other financial factors and the culpability of the offender. These offences can have very serious consequences and it is important that sentences reflect these

The Sentencing Council said that this could cover "a building firm that causes the death of an employee by not providing the proper equipment for working at height, a restaurant that causes an outbreak of E. coli poisoning through unsafe food preparation, a manufacturer that causes injury to a new worker by not providing training for operating machinery or a gas fitter whose sub-standard work leads to the risk of an explosion in someone’s home."

The new guidelines provide both a starting point and a range of possible fines dependent on the seriousness of the offence and how culpable the offender is judged to be. This could range from minor failings in procedures to deliberately dangerous acts. For serious health and safety breaches, individual company directors could face prison sentences and heavy fines.

The new guidelines mean that it is critical for all organisations large or small to scrutinise their health and safety policies, training and compliance, they need to ensure risk is assessed and standards are applied and continuously monitored. It's more crucial than ever before that businesses have robust compliance procedures.

Welcoming the release of the guidelines, the British Safety Council said they would provide a strong argument for focusing on prevention and good governance. Neal Stone, deputy chief executive of the British Safety Council, commented:

We believe that these definitive guidelines are clear in presenting the business case for good health and safety. It will help to concentrate minds with the argument that it is better to prevent injury and ill health than face the costs associated with getting it wrong.’

If you have any questions in relation to the new guidelines or to Health & Safety services or requirements in general, call us on 01455 234 600 or contact us online. 

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