Health & Safety Law Solicitors

Never has it been more important to ensure your business has in place proper Health & Safety policies, risk assessments and working procedures to protect own staff and all others.

The introduction in February 1 2016 of the Health and Safety Offences Definitive Guideline has meant a very significant increase in court fines and other penalties (including custody for individuals). These are not only imposed for offences involving fatalities but where there has been exposure to risk when no specific accident or injury has actually occurred. Such penalties can threaten the very future viability of a business.

All business sectors are affected by this. In some sectors there are particular danger areas where a significant number of incidents have taken place. In the logistics and transport sector, for example, accidents involving forklift trucks, falls from height and pedestrians being struck by vehicles/ trailers in warehouses and operating centres have occurred all too frequently.

“It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

Whilst organisations with lower turnovers are significantly affected, those with medium and large turnovers have felt a particularly stark impact from the new sentencing regime.

In the period 1975 to January 2016 the courts imposed about 32 fines in excess of £1M.

In 2014 no fines of £1M of more were imposed. In 2015 three such fines were imposed.

“Persons not in his employment … who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

After the new sentencing approach commenced in 2016 no less than 19 fines of £1M were imposed. Four of these were in excess of £3M, the largest being £5M.

Quite apart from the obvious consequences of an avoidable accident (fatalities or serious injury) an investigation and prosecution by the Health & Safety Executive can impact enormously on a business through:

  • the financial cost and stress of an invasive investigation
  • a debilitating court case
  • large fines (against which an organisation cannot insure)
  • significant prosecution and defence costs
  • loss of reputation
  • loss of contracts / inability to tender for new work
  • increased insurance costs
  • withdrawal of banking facilities.
  • Interventions by the Health & Safety Executive are not confined to prosecution. of course. The Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012 permit the HSE to require the payment of
  • investigation fees where breaches are identified and are regarded as sufficiently serious.

In the event of an incident it is vital to take early advice. Even earlier advice can ensure the correct systems are already in place to avoid breaches.