Companies to face larger fines for breaches of health and safety
According to experts, English and Welsh firms should prepare to be hit by much heavier fines for health and safety breaches than previously, due to the new sentencing regulations now in force.
Recently, Conoco Phillips, an energy company, was fined £3m and costs after a guilty plea at Lincolnshire Crown Court to three counts of health and safety breaches. According to Kevin Bridges, the expert in health and safety law at Pinsent Masons, sentencing for the case started just before the new regulations were introduced, resulting in much lower fines. Bridges added that the original fine had been £5m, although this was reduced due to the company pleading guilty. The firm's turnover is in excess of several billion pounds and it is therefore classed as a 'very large' company.
Bridges added that other cases being heard recently in the courts were facing much larger fines, reaching as high as £2m in some cases. The health and safety law expert believes that under the new sentencing regime, fines could reach as much as £10m for serious offences and more for corporate manslaughter cases.
The guidelines produced by the Sentencing Council came into force on 1st February 2016 for use in corporate manslaughter, health and safety, and food hygiene and safety cases. The guidelines are expected to create consistency for sentencing in England and Wales.
The new fines may persuade business owners to abide by health and safety regulations, providing necessary protection for its workers, including the use of PPE and specialist workwear.