Is Your Business At Risk If You Don’t Follow Health and Safety Law?

Posted on written by Sam Barton

Health and Safety breaches don’t just result in workplace injuries and employee’s spending time off work.

Your business is under threat from being prosecuted too.

In 2015-16 HSE and Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) saw a 6% rise in the number of cases prosecuted across Great Britain and the final figure is expected to be just shy of 700.

In fact, the culminated total of fines by the courts on businesses for lax health and safety doubled from the previous year to £38.3m. The conviction rate currently stands at 95% with at least one conviction being secured in 660 of 696 cases.

More and more directors are being targeted for poor health and safety implementation.

The Risk To Directors

Those in charge of a company are far more likely to face prosecution for health and safety offences than employees.

Research by Clyde & Co showed that in 2015-16 there were 46 directors prosecuted for health and safety violations and this was a considerable rise from the previous year when the number stood at 15. Twelve were given prison sentences with the longest being a custodial sentence of 2 years.

These figures show the emphasis on holding executives accountable for health and safety breaches and that while employees can’t always be absolved of blame the buck tends to stop in the boardroom.

The Case Of Scottish Power

To better illustrate how your business can be negatively affected by lax health and safety it is useful to look at the recent example of Scottish Power.

An employee suffered burn injuries when a valve was not fitted with the correct safety device to prevent it from opening fully. It led to the worker having to be medical retired and Scottish Power were fined £1.75m as a result.

While this final figure was cut to £1.2m on appeal it demonstrated that putting employees at risk when proper steps could have been taken is a serious offence and can have significant financial ramifications.

How Can You Avoid This?

It is easy to simply say that directors need to take health and safety seriously.

We blogged previously about how you can help to create a safe working environment for your workforce. In addition to knowing the law, communicating issues and conducting training you should carry out regular checks on equipment and perform proper risk assessments. This may all sound time consuming but it is a better option that being held liable if an employee suffers an injury at work.

Every business owner or director is at risk of prosecution either through a fine that can have damaging effects on how your company runs or a custodial sentence for more serious offences.

Beyond looking after your workforce, the focus of health and safety should also be to protect your business as well and this comes with following proper health and safety procedure.

Directors held accountable for health and safety failings.

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