Record fines warning
05 November 2023
ACCORDING TO CFTS — the UK accrediting body for Thorough Examinations (LOLER and PUWER) — employers across all industries should be aware that they face record fines if they are convicted following a health and safety prosecution.
“The most recent statistics make sobering reading,” says Geoff Martin, Chairman of CFTS. “There’s an assumption that because things haven’t gone wrong yet, they never will. But that’s a very risky strategy when it comes to health and safety, especially when the stakes are so high in human, financial and reputational terms.
“Recently released statistics reveal that if a case is brought by HSE, then the probability of conviction is significantly greater than for other criminal cases.”
The evidence is compelling. Of all the cases it prosecuted in 2020/2021 the HSE obtained a conviction rate of 94% on at least one of the offences charged.* That compares with 83.6% for general convictions.
At the same time, the courts are adopting an increasingly robust approach when punishing offenders. Since the introduction of the Health and Safety Guidelines in 2016 the average fine has more than doubled, with judges handing out fines intended to have a significant economic impact on the businesses concerned. Looking at the most recent figures, the average fine has increased from £107,000 in 2019/2020 to £145,000 in 2020/2021 — an increase of 35%. What’s more, seven of the cases sentenced in 2020/2021 resulted in a fine of £1 million or more.**
“We are urging businesses of every size to review their health and safety procedures – and that starts with ensuring equipment is regularly inspected to certify it is safe and fit for purpose,” emphasises Geoff Martin.
“It makes complete financial sense, not just because of the risk of fines but because it is so important to protect an investment in expensive plant.
“That means carrying out daily/pre-use checks and underpinning those with Thorough Examinations that cover both the lifting components (as required under LOLER regulations) and also the brakes, steering and other safety-related parts (covered by PUWER).
“The incentives for employers to ensure they are fully compliant when it comes to safety have never been greater, with conviction a near certainty if an accident results in a prosecution.
“CFTS can offer advice on what should be covered in a Thorough Examination to comply with HSE requirements and the intervals when it should be carried out.”
For more information, visit www.thoroughexamination.org
* Health and Safety Executive Annual Report and Accounts 2022/23