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Fines hike for those failing safety laws

by Andy Clutton

Accident at workFrom 1 February 2016, the ‘Health and Safety Offences and Corporate Manslaughter Offences Guidelines’ could mean higher (and potentially unlimited) fines for companies and public sector bodies who fall short of complying with health and safety law.

The new guidelines say that in the event of a health and safety prosecution a fine “must be sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to management…the need to comply with health and safety legislation”.

According to Paul Reeve, Director of Business Services at the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), the new guidelines underline the need for contractors, of any size, to have an effective approach to complying with health and safety law.

Paul comments: “Key legislation for contractors includes the CDM 2015 and Management of Health and Safety at Work 1999 Regulations. The ECA is working closely with the BESA to ensure that building services contractors know what they need to do, and to help them comply.

“A key message to contractors is to have sensible and effective, but also proportionate, arrangements for ensuring health and safety, and to have access to competent health and safety advice. These measures need to cover what you actually do at work, no more and no less”.

When sentencing for health and safety offences the guidelines now require the courts to consider factors such as:

  • ‘culpability’ – ranging from ‘low’ (the company did not fall far short of the appropriate standard) to ‘very high’ (a deliberate breach of, or flagrant disregard for the law);
  • the organisation’s annual turnover, or equivalent;
  • any aggravating factors such as cost-cutting at the expense of safety, or mitigating factors, such as a good health and safety record.

Paul Reeve concludes: “Two ways for contractors to show basic health and safety capability are to meet the technical and safety requirements of their sector trade association and to meet the assessment criteria applied by schemes operating under the Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) banner”.

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