2016 saw significant changes made to Health & Safety guidelines, affecting building merchants across the UK in an attempt to stamp down on incidents that could have been avoided with appropriate health & safety measures. Building merchants that turn over between £10m and £50m per year and are of a relatively medium size seem to be at increased risk following the changes, and since the introduction of the revamped guidelines there has been a vast amount of sanctions and fines handed out for breaching health & safety regulations!
International law firm Gowling WLG has sent out a new warning alongside Health and Safety consultancy firm Southalls to building merchants in the UK, to make these companies aware that heavy fines are being handed out on a much more regular basis now. Even for non-fatal cases, we are starting to see business receiving fines in excess of £1 million, so will we finally start to see a large-scale improvement for Health & Safety in the industry as a result?
A major factor in the size of these sentences is the turnover of the defendant organisation, commented Andrew Litchfield, a partner at Gowling WLG. What weâre seeing currently is a disproportionate effect on medium sized organisations, rather than those with a turnover in excess of £50m for example. For very large organisations the sentencing guidelines do not include sentencing tables, and we have yet to see commensurate fines for the largest businesses.
Following the death of a customer in Milton Keynes, Travis Perkins was charged £2 million, which currently stands as the highest industry fine so far. Since the changes were made last year there has certainly been an increase in the amount of investigations launched into various different Health & Safety offences as well as resulting prosecutions, but will this encourage higher penalties to be implemented from now on?
Litchfield firmly believes that it will only be a matter of time before we start to see heavier fines introduced that are in excess of £10 million, because the purpose of the sentencing is to remind offending business owners and shareholders that they simply cannot break the Health & Safety legislation.
Maybe we will begin to see further increases to fines and sanctions in the near future, but for now this latest warning could be enough to change the mind-sets of many businesses in the UK when it comes to Health & Safety compliance!