New Sentencing guidelines to keep health and safety a key corporate priority in 2016. Summary overview of the new guidelines:

NEW SENTENCING GUIDELINES TO KEEP HEALTH AND SAFETY A KEY CORPORATE PRIORITY IN 2016.

As of 1st February 2016, new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences and corporate manslaughter cases came into effect with fines exceeding £10m for serious health and safety breaches or £20m in corporate manslaughter cases - even more for large companies.

Its objective is to ensure there is a consistent approach to the sentencing of health and safety and corporate manslaughter cases. The guidelines, which were first published in November last year, create a matrix into which details of the offence, circumstances and turnover of the offending business is plotted. The outcome determines the level of punishment.

According to the Sentencing Council, the guidelines cover the following offences:

  • Health and safety offences - Organisations and Individuals
  • Corporate manslaughter
  • Food hygiene and food safety offences - Organisations and Individuals

Depending on the turnover of the offending company, the guidance suggests it should be placed in one of four bands:
• Micro (turnover up to £2m)
• Small (turnover between £2m and £10m)
• Medium (turnover up to £50m)
• Large (turnover more than £50m)

Under the old guidance, the starting threshold for corporate manslaughter convictions was £500,000 but under the new guidelines:

Example based on a Category A - High Culpability offence:
• An offence committed by a large organisation would start at £7.5m with a category range of between £4.8m - £20m
• A medium-sized company convicted of the more serious of two severity levels of Corporate Manslaughter Act breaches can expect a fine of between £1.8m and £7.5m, with a benchmark of £3m.
• For small organisations, the fine would start at £800,000 with a category range of between £540,000 - £2.8m.
• For micro-organisations, the starting point for a fine after a high culpability corporate manslaughter offence will be £450,000.

Health and safety offences are concerned with failures to manage risks and do not require proof that the offence caused any actual harm. The offence is in creating the risk of harm.

The Sentencing Council guidelines, outlines an initial harm category based on:
1) The risk of harm created by the offence
2) Whether the offence exposed a number of workers or members of the public to the risk of harm
3) Whether the offence was a significant cause of actual harm.

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Page 6 of the Sentencing Guidelines outlines the 'Seriousness of harm risked'. More information can be found HERE.

Mark Haydock, Managing Director of EDP Health, Safety and Environment Consultants Ltd commented: "Companies have been sent a clear message that the authorities expect health and safety to remain a key corporate priority. Boards across the country should take notice and EDP will work with businesses requiring support to ensure that they are aware of the changes and fully compliant with legislation. These changes should be seen as a positive step towards further motivating businesses to ensure risk assessments are complete and their safety and health infrastructure is fit for purpose.”

It should be noted that the new guidance relates to court cases in England and Wales and will not apply in Scotland, although as most health and safety laws apply across the UK, they may well be considered by the Scottish courts.

Should you wish to discuss your health and safety in more detail or require an audit, please do not hesitate to contact Mark Haydock mark.haydock@edp-uk.com or telephone Mark on: 01744 766000.