Businesses are being warned to take their health and safety responsibilities seriously after a number of high-value fines being imposed following prosecutions by the Government’s watchdog.
Terry Griffin, partner in the Litigation team at Napthens solicitors, reports an increase in the levels of activity by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) – both in terms of investigations and the prosecutions that follow.
The HSE is Britain’s national regulator for such issues and works to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health.
Terry Griffin warns that last year the sentencing guidelines changed to allow courts the power to impose unlimited fines.
This was followed by a number of high-profile prosecutions such as the record fine for Alton Towers’ operators Merlin following the June 2015 accident which saw 16 people injured. Merlin was fined £5million as a result.
Earlier this year a Hull cake manufacturing company was fined £1million over the death of a worker at its factory.
Terry Griffin said: “The decision to remove the cap for fines imposed by the magistrates’ court was partly taken to free the crown courts to deal with the most serious cases.
“The result has been a clear trend of large fines being imposed, which is a sign that such offences are being taken very seriously by judges and magistrates alike.
“Earlier this year we saw two more high profile cases including a Sheffield engineering business which was fined £1million following the death of an employee, and a case which saw United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust also fined £1million after a patient died following a fall.
“All businesses should be aware of their responsibilities under health and safety legislation and ensure their systems and procedures are up-to-date and regularly reviewed.
“Any businesses which find themselves under investigation should consult their legal team immediately.”