Maximum penalties for Health and Safety offences
Most people think that the penalty for a health and safety breach is a fine – and probably a little more than a slap on the wrist. But they are wrong. Not only is the record fine for a health and safety offence a whopping £15 Million (Transco, August 2005), but the courts have plenty of other forms of punishment at their disposal. With so many offences under the banner of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and associated legislation, companies and individuals need to be sure that they have done all they reasonably can to protect themselves against enforcement action.
Following changes in the law that came into force in April 2015, Magistrates’ Courts now have the power to levy an unlimited fine for breaches of health and safety law. This means that those accused of having committed heath and safety offences can no longer expect a cap on the maximum fine that can be handed down should they opt to have their case heard by the Magistrates.
It is important to remember that there is no concept of a tariff in health and safety cases – instead, those convicted will be fined according to their ability to pay.
Offences committed on and after the 12th March 2015 now carry a maximum penalty in the Magistrates’ Court of an unlimited fine, and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months. In the Crown Court, the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine or imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.
Fines are not the end of the story – both the Magistrates’ Court and the Crown Court have a discretionary power to make a variety of other orders, including:
• Compensation Orders for victims
• Community Orders – those found guilty could be ordered to do community service as well as or instead of receiving a fine
• Disqualification Orders – disqualified persons must not, without the court’s permission, be a director, liquidator or administrator of a company, or manager of company property, or in any way, directly or indirectly, be concerned or take part in the promotion, formation or management of a company for a specified period. Orders can be for disqualification of up to 15 years.
• Remedial Orders – the court can (in addition to or instead of any other sentence) order the defendant to take steps to remedy matters that gave rise to the breach of health and safety law. Failure to comply with such an order is another offence.
• Publicity Orders – possibly the most damaging of all when it comes to a company’s reputation. These are available in corporate manslaughter cases only (so are only made in the Crown Court) and require the organisation to publish information about the offence and sentence.
The starting point to avoiding the above sanctions is to receive good quality, accurate training and information. We at Griffin Safety Training, which is owned and operated by a former barrister and expert in health and safety, can help your company to understand the reality of how to comply with health and safety law and in so doing assist you in developing a happy, better motivated and more profitable organisation.
Contact us today for more information on how we might help your organisation become even more successful.