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UK director prosecutions triple in 12 months

The number of company director prosecutions for Health & Safety offences is at a five year high, according to official figures.

While the number of directors and senior managers prosecuted more than tripled in the year up to 31 March 2016, the number of employees prosecuted dropped from 10 to 1. This data shows that there is an increasing tendency for prosecutions to be aimed at more senior individuals in a business, rather than the employees who are involved in the incidents. Making senior management responsible for the Health & Safety failings of their business and staff means that the burden is on them to ensure that their policies are effective and are being enforced correctly.

Around 3/4 of the directors prosecuted were found guilty, resulting in 12 prison sentences of lengths of up to two years. As well as these custodial sentences, fines totalling £20.6 million were given out between February and August 2016 (not including fines imposed in cases prosecuted by local authorities) – a 43% increase in value compared with the year before. This increase follows the introduction of the new sentencing guidelines for safety and health offences on 1 February 2016.

According to research, medium-sized organisations have been hit the hardest by these fines, as they took a higher proportion of their turnover than any other size business. Fines are now sometimes as high as £1 million for non-fatal offences and even offences which result in no injuries, meaning that any breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act could possibly be a serious financial threat to a business.

These figures demonstrate that directors and other senior members of all businesses need to ensure that they are complying with Health & Safety regulations at all times in order to avoid prosecution.

If you are unsure as to your duties and obligations in relation to Health & Safety or feel as though your senior management may benefit from some training, please speak to your dedicated Jelf Risk Management contact, who will be happy to help. If you are not currently a Jelf Risk Management client and would like to hear more about our services, please call 0345 040 0002 and ask for the Health & Safety team.

Sources

IIRSM insight magazine, issue 12/2016, p2.

IOSH magazine, December 2016, p5.

JIB008.01.17

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