Health & safety minefield

How confident are the directors of your company that your health & safety management would be able to withstand a prosecution? Do you have adequate insurance coverage in place?

In February this year we saw the most dramatic change in health & safety enforcement for almost 50 years with new sentencing guidelines coming into force.

Health & Safety fines are now based on turnover with the maximum fine for companies, being a staggering £10m. This rises to a maximum possible £20m for corporate manslaughter. Firms can also be fined up to £3m for the worst food safety and hygiene breaches. It is fair to say fines are increasing in their severity.

It is not just large companies that face a massive increase in possible fines for breaching health and safety duties. SME businesses also need to be worried. A company with a turnover of less than £2m can now face a fine of up to £450,000, (25% of turnover lost in a potential fine). How many businesses could stand that and survive?

These fines are in addition to legal costs and any individuals found at fault may also be imprisoned or disqualified as a director. Should a breach be deemed to have occurred company directors could face up to two
years in jail.

Looking at historical cases it is sobering to note the seriousness that health & safety breaches are being viewed by the courts. The trend for fines for health & safety offences is an increasing one.

Health & Safety is viewed very much as a personal liability issue. It is the directors of the company who can be prosecuted and potentially jailed for breaches in this area.

As your broker, no matter what industry you are in, it is important we ensure you are properly protected, so please contact us if you would like to discuss these issues further.

Zurich Insider, What do new health and safety fines mean?