BLM tracker: Health and safety fines up 148 per cent

Written by staff reporter

Companies across the UK have been forced to pay out over £61m in health and safety fines throughout 2016 – almost 2.5 times that seen in 2015, according to BLM’s health and safety tracker.

Research conducted by the insurance and risk law firm found that there were a total of 292 incidents recorded during 2016, with an average pay-out of almost a quarter of a million pounds. This is four times the £69,500 average cost seen the previous year, where 358 cases were brought.

This follows a change in legislation made in February 2016, with new guidelines imposed for health and safety, food hygiene and corporate manslaughter offences. The court now considers culpability, seriousness and likelihood of harm and the size of a business and its turnover when imposing fines.

Fines for businesses with a turnover in excess of £50m can now reach up to £10m for health and safety offences, and corporate manslaughter fines could be as much as £20m. This new system has been implemented to improve the standards of compliance with health and safety legislation for larger organisations by imposing fines proportionate to the size of the business, rather than using a universal figure for all offences.

The significance of this change is highlighted in BLM’s figures, with 18 fines issued last year with a value of over £1m, compared with only two in 2015. This includes the high profile £5m fine issued to Alton Towers following the Smiler incident, which remains the largest ever fine from a single incident.

Partner and head of health and safety at insurance and risk law firm BLM, Helen Devery, said: “The new sentencing guidelines send a strong message to all businesses big or small: it is people and business critical to ensure that safety processes and systems are a board level priority. The introduction of the risk of harm means that near misses will be reviewed and subject to potential prosecution so this has been a game-changing 12 months for the industry."

BLM’s figures reveal that the construction sector was the most costly, racking up a bill of almost £14m. This was followed by manufacturing (£12m), Utilities (£8.4m), Leisure (£7.4m), Logistics and transport (£7.2m), Industrials (£3.9m) and Public Sector (£2.6m).

“Robust and proactive audit processes which interrogate and improve systems will be seen as best practice and at the heart of this is a commitment to effective risk assessment and training across all parts of the business,” Devery added.

Read our Q&A with BLM's Helen Devery:

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