Health and safety fines to increase drastically under tougher guidelines

Under tougher sentencing guidelines proposed last week, large firms convicted of corporate manslaughter will face fines of up to £20m.

According to the Sentencing Council, which for England and Wales promotes greater consistency in sentencing, whilst maintaining the independence of the judiciary, punishments for organisations and individuals found guilty of health and safety as well as food safety and hygiene offences should also be substantially increased.

The Council produces guidelines on sentencing for the judiciary and aims to increase public understanding of sentencing, and the recommendations contained in its latest draft guidance for judges in England and Wales has now been put out for consultation.

In 2013/14 in the UK, 133 people were killed at work and 70 members of the public fatally injured in accidents connected to work, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

However, to date, there have been only eight convictions for corporate manslaughter in England and Wales since the legislation was introduced in 2007.

The largest fine issued thus far was handed down just a few weeks ago when a company was found guilty of corporate manslaughter and fined £500,000 following the death of an employee.

Given the fact that £500,000 is the biggest fine handed out so far, it is evident that the proposals from the Sentencing Council to substantially increase the fines are set to shake things up and ensure that companies start to take health and safety more seriously.