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Guest opinion: Health and safety law gets tough in 2016

Philip Harmer

2016 marks a change, with our hopes pinned on the teams’ performance in Brazil and new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences from February 1,2016.

The new Health and Safety sentencing guidelines apply to companies, small businesses and individuals differentiated by turnover, which in turn is commensurate to the size of the fine(s); the bigger the firm the bigger the fine.

 ‘The fine must be sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to operate within the law’.

As with all criminal offences the severity of the offence is calculated by the category, then the degree of culpability and of course the harm caused or the likelihood of harm arising.

At its extreme, large companies found guilty of health and safety breaches causing death under the current regime could expect a fine of a few hundred thousand pounds, from February you can add another zero or another two for corporate manslaughter.

In short the fines could be measured in millions.  

For individuals convicted of health and safety offences may receive community service sanctions but a two year custodial sentence is likely for the more serious transgressions.

Unlike primary legislation, the sentencing guidelines will be applicable regardless of the date the offence was committed and as result firms should act quickly in reviewing their systems and processes ensuring the relevant documentation is quickly and easily available if required.

If not already in place and in line with other compliance protocols a senior member of staff should be appointed as compliance officer, overseeing training and risk assessments.

> Author: Philip Harmer, (pictured) is a partner at Stormcatcher Business Lawyers based in Surrey. He is a lawyer, speaker and regular commentator on employment and business law.

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  • Pual - 04/01/2016 09:51

    Good

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