Health and safety fines rose 80% in first year of new sentencing guidelines

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) 2016/17 injury and ill health statistics show fines handed to duty holders found guilty of health and safety offences increased by 80% in the first full year that the new sentencing guidelines were in place.
In 2016/17 fines reached £69.9m compared with £38.8m for the same period a year earlier. This is the second consecutive year in which financial penalties have soared.
The Sentencing Council’s Definitive Guidelines for Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences were introduced in February 2016. Under the new guidelines, the level of fine corresponds to the offending organisation’s turnover. Therefore, large companies, with an annual turnover of more than £50 million, which fall into the very high culpability category, could be fined up to £10 million. In 2016/17, thirty-eight cases received fines over £500k and the largest fine of £5m was issued to Merlin Entertainments.
Though total penalties increased, the number of prosecutions brought by the HSE, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland decreased. There were 554 cases that resulted in a conviction for at least one offence in 2016/17 compared with 672 such cases in 2015/16.
The HSE and local authorities also issued 11,913 enforcement notices in 2016/17, a 5% increase compared with the previous period when 11,380 were served.  
Other key figures from the 2016/17 statistics are highlighted below:

  • 1.3 million working people suffering from a work-related illness;
  • 2,542 mesothelioma deaths due to past asbestos exposures (2015);
  • 137 workers killed at work;
  • 609,000 injuries occurred at work according to the Labour Force Survey;
  • 70,116 injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR;
  • 31.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury; and
  • £14.9 billion estimated cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions (2015/16). 


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