Guidance on Health and Safety Fines
Due to dissatisfaction with the lack of comprehensive guidance for sentencing of fatal health and safety offences and corporate manslaughter the Sentencing Council has drafted new guidance and opened consultation to review the guidelines for corporate manslaughter and other health and safety offences.
The aim is to create a more consistent approach to sentencing for both fatal health and safety offences and corporate manslaughter.
Under the proposed guidelines:
- A medium sized company with a turnover of between £10 million and £50 million could expect a fine with a “starting point” of £3 million for the most serious offence, ranging up to £7.5 million while the starting point for a less serious offence would be £2 million ranging up to £5 million. The current guidance sets a benchmark of just £500,000.
- Large companies, with turnovers substantially higher than £50 million, could see fines in excess of £20 million.
The size of the fines imposed will be, to some extent, dependent upon a company’s financial means. In the past the limited ability of an Organisation to pay large fines (for instance, due to being in administration) has meant that the fines imposed by courts have been relatively low so far. It is planned that, in the future, fine levels would be large enough to have an economic impact on an organisation to stress the importance of operating in a safe environment.
Since the inception of the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007 four convictions have been secured:
- Sterecycle waste firm was fined £500,000 after an employee died in an explosion whilst at work.
- Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings in Gloucestershire was ordered to pay £385,000 after an employee was killed by a collapsing trench.
- Prince’s Sporting Club was ordered to pay £135,000 after an 11-year old girl died falling from a boat ride.
- Drumdollagh Construction Company was told to pay out £60,000 after a worker died in a truck incident
Under the proposed guidelines for offences prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act or other safety regulations, there is a more complex schedule, but a medium sized company with “medium culpability” for a serious incident would face a fine in the range £300,000 to £1.3 million.