Health & Safety Sentencing Guidelines – Missing the Human Element?

Neil HartleyHealth & Safety News2 Comments

Health & Safety Sentencing Guidelines - What's Missing?

Revised health and safety sentencing guidelines were introduced in February 2016. We see the results, the numbers. £14M in health and safety fines for the UK construction industry in 2016. £12M for manufacturing. But, while substantial, they don’t really resonate. Do they with you? Do you get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach? No? Me neither.

These are corporate/company fines, granted in many instances impacting small businesses but, all the same, devoid of any human impact.

Of course you don’t want to be responsible for damaging your corporate brand or incur health & safety fines because of avoidable incidents. Of course you don’t. But is that what gets you out of bed in the morning? I thought not. You want to make sure that your employees and contractors get to go home safely, without incident.

And that’s why the top line numbers don’t resonate. We’re the same. We’re not here to build software, our motivation is the same as yours – to ensure that your employees and contractors get to go home safely every night, it just so happens that we do this through the deployment of our e-permits system which was designed to prevent avoidable incidents.

What always produces a sick feeling in our stomachs is the human impact, and not just of those injured or killed in work-related accidents. What about the human impact on people like you? What about the emotional impact felt by all involved in the incident, subsequent trials, and sentencing process? Those who may have to go to court and defend their companies, or perhaps themselves?

The last published HSE statistics revealed that 696 cases were prosecuted for health & safety failings in 2015/16 with 660 of these resulting in at least one conviction.

We don’t know how many people had to go to court to face the judge and jury as a result of these prosecutions but it’s likely to be multiple per prosecution.  Maybe a thousand people sitting in a waiting room, recounting witness statements, meeting with legal representation and looking at the victims or victims’ families from the witness stand? The courtroom process and weeks of preparation beforehand are still harrowing and life altering even if there is no personal prosecution.

I think Nick Varney, CEO of Merlin Entertainments, was very genuine in articulating the human impact of the Alton Towers disaster on him and his employees in his statement following their court case.

Help us help you avoid finding yourself in this situation. Let’s work together in preventing avoidable incidents. You can stay informed by subscribing to this blog (see below) or you can contact us using any of the mechanisms available across this blog. We hope to hear from you.

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2 Comments on “Health & Safety Sentencing Guidelines – Missing the Human Element?”

  1. You are correct that most of us get out of bed in the morning to protect people. However, where perhaps the sentencing guidelines strengthen our arm is that sometimes, those higher in the organisation, in control of the purse strings, don’t see that safety is a good investment. The London fire this week shows what happens when organisations seek only “compliance” not real safety, and perhaps bigger fines will convince landlords, employers and other “responsible people” to think harder about the consequences of failing to invest in safety.

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