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Tougher Penalties for Negligent Businesses

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Tougher Penalties for Negligent Businesses

New sentencing guidelines were released at the beginning of November that could see businesses facing tougher penalties for offences relating to corporate manslaughter, health & safety and food hygiene.

The guidelines cover all businesses and organisations in England and Wales found to have caused death, illness or injury through unsafe or illegal working practices. This will include, for example:

  • A construction company causing the death of a scaffolder by not providing adequate safety equipment for working at height.
  • A cafe causing an outbreak of food poisoning amongst customers by preparing food in an unsafe way.
  • A factory owner causing injury to a machine operator, by not providing adequate training  for the machine’s features.

Currently the only penalties available for businesses are fines, no matter how severe the consequences. Imprisonment sentences are only available for individuals found guilty of very serious offences.

The Sentencing Council has said that the higher fines being proposed will mean that large organisations found guilty of serious offences can be penalised more fairly and appropriately, in line with means of the offender and severity of the case.

So, the starting point for deciding the size of the fine imposed on a business will always be to consider their turnover. There are no limits on the size of the potential fine, but the guidelines will be used to to determine the amount based on culpability, harm caused and turnover.

For example:

  • A breach of health & safety law could result in a fine of between £50 and £10,000,000.
  • Offences relating to food safety and hygiene could result in a fine of between £100 to £3,000,000.
  • An offence resulting in corporate manslaughter could result in a fine of between £180,000 to £20,000,000.

The size of the fine for each offence takes into account the risk of harm. So the fines available for corporate manslaughter reach right up to £20 million, because a crime of this nature will always result in at least one death. Whereas the variety of possible fines available for health and safety breaches reflects the fact that a breach could result in an array of consequences, ranging in severity from a single, minor injury, to multiple fatalities.

Michael Caplan QC, a member of the Sentencing Council, explained that the new guidelines are intended to allow a more consistent approach to sentencing. The severity of the risks taken are reflected in the severity of the new penalties, providing a fair and proportionate result for victims, their families and consumers.

Health and Safety Training

To make sure you aren’t taking unnecessary and illegal risks with the health and safety of your employers, simply get in touch with the team at Health and Safety Training Ltd.

We provide a range of training options, from risk assessment and managing safety training for employers and supervisors, to operator and manual handling training, ensuring that your staff have all the skills and knowledge they need to carry out their jobs safely.

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