Fines issued in relation to health and safety breaches have seen a 148% increase in the past year according to law firm BLM.
The average cost of payouts has risen threefold from £69,500 in 2015 to a staggering £211,000 over the last 12 months. Its estimated that UK companies were forced to cough up a total of around £6.1m in 2016, for failing to comply with corporate safety legislation.
Industries that are the worst offenders unsurprisingly include Construction, which racked up £14m in fines, followed by Manufacturing with £12m. Utilities came in third at £8.4m, with Leisure (£7.4m), Logistics and Transport (£7.2m), Industrials (£3.9m) and finally the Public Sector which received fines totaling £2.6m.
Experts have suggested tougher guidelines introduced recently as part of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (2007), have been a major contributor in the rise, as the number of incidents has in fact fallen from 358 in 2015 to 292 the previous year.
Under the new ruling, courts must consider a number of factors including overall culpability, the severity of the offence, the risk of harm and the size of the organisation. The penalties that companies can receive for corporate manslaughter are potentially unlimited. In 2016, the number of fines over £1m issued rose steeply from two in 2015 to eighteen, as more and more fall foul of stricter regulations.
Helen Devery, Partner and Head of Health and Safety at BLM spoke of the tougher measures being a ‘game changer,’ she said:
“The new sentencing guidelines send a strong message to all businesses big or small: it is people and business critical to ensure that safety processes and systems are a board level priority. The introduction of the risk of harm means that near misses will be reviewed and subject to potential prosecution so this has been a game-changing 12 months for the industry.”
With tighter regulations having come into effect, it is more important than ever that Duty of Care is taken seriously, putting the necessary measures in place to mitigate risks and protect those most vulnerable from harm. As well as being imposed with a hefty fine, those guilty of corporate manslaughter may also find individuals proven responsible facing a significant custodial sentence. High profile cases of negligence can also be extremely costly to an organisation’s corporate image, potentially destroying its reputation indefinitely.