On February 1st 2016, the amended sentencing guidelines for health and safety came into force. The aim of the changes to the guidelines was to provide courts with comprehensive guidance for all health and safety offences in any case sentenced in England and Wales.
In this article we hope to provide a simple overview of the sentencing guidelines, which you can use to determine how they would affect your organisation in the event of an offence.
How are fines determined?
The Sentencing Council has laid out a framework that must be followed during the consideration on the appropriate financial penalty.
The penalty is selected by:
What is culpability?
Culpability relates to the responsibility for fault or wrongdoing.
In the guideline framework there are four categories of culpability:
What is harm?
Within the context of the sentencing guidelines, harm is the “seriousness of harm risked”. It will be the risk of the identified injury (e.g. risk of death) that will be considered.
There are three levels of harm:
The courts are also required to decide on the likelihood of that harm arising in order to arrive at a final harm category.
The five categories in the framework range from no more than £2 million for micro businesses to £50 million and over for very large companies.
For larger organisations, fines can range anywhere between £10,000 and £3 million. Exceptional cases can go above this though, such as the Alton Towers ‘Smiler Rollercoaster’ incident which resulted in a £5 million fine.
Once the culpability, harm and turnover have been determined, a penalty can then be decided.
There are other factors that can affect the penalty such as a good past health and safety record, or an early guilty plea. However, factors such as obstructing an investigation or cost-cutting at the expense of safety can impact negatively on the penalty.
Worried about being fined? Not sure if you are doing everything you are legally required to? Contact us on 01394 389683 or firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help you to feel confident in your health and safety requirements.