UK companies paid £6.1 million in health and safety fines in 2016. That’s a rise of 148% on fines paid in 2015, according to BLM’s health and safety tracker.
The insurance law and risk law firm, BLM, has found that the average pay-out had risen to £211,000 – four times the £69,500 average cost seen in 2015. These fines came from a total of 292 incidents recorded in 2016 and 358 incidents in 2015.
This rise in fines could be attributed to a change in legislation that was introduced in February 2016. This legislation introduced new guidelines for health and safety, food hygiene and corporate manslaughter offences.
As compelled by the new guidelines, courts must now consider culpability, seriousness and likelihood of harm and the size of the business when imposing fines.
This new system has been implemented to improve compliance with health and safety legislation for larger organisations by imposing fines proportionate to the size of the business. Fines for businesses with a turnover in excess of £50m can now reach up to £10m for health and safety offences, and corporate manslaughter fines could be as much as £20m.
BLM’s figures highlight 18 fines that were issued worth over £1 million. This is a marked increase over 2015’s number of £1 million fines of which there was only two.
Helen Devery, partner and head of health and safety at insurance and risk law firm BLM, said:
“The new sentencing guidelines send a strong message to all businesses big or small: it is people and business critical to ensure that safety processes and systems are a board level priority. The introduction of the risk of harm means that near misses will be reviewed and subject to potential prosecution so this has been a game-changing 12 months for the industry.”
BLM’s figures reveal that the construction sector was the most costly, racking up a bill of almost £14m. This was followed by manufacturing (£12m), Utilities (£8.4m), Leisure (£7.4m), Logistics and transport (£7.2m), Industrials (£3.9m) and Public Sector (£2.6m).