7 August 2017 | Simon Olliff
The 2016 total for health and safety fines in the construction industry totalled £14 million. The 2016 total for health and safety fines in the manufacturing industry totalled £12 million.
How does this translate into real life?
Such fines were a direct consequence of the harsher sentencing guidelines that came into force in February 2016. But recounting the fees paid by offending businesses tells only part of the story.
Omitted from news articles scandalising the cost of offending is the emotional impact felt by all involved in the incident, trials, and sentencing process; those people who saw colleagues suffer serious injuries and in the worst cases, grieving family members and children left without parents. Also missing is how the person on trial feels - in a dock facing families of the bereaved, reliving failures that they know have cost their business a lot more than the fine imposed, with reputations irrevocably damaged.
And consider the number of people who have to walk into a courtroom to defend their companies. Between 2015-16, 696 cases were prosecuted for health and safety failings. This could mean multiple people from one organisation going to court. Sitting in a waiting room, recounting witness statements, meeting with legal representation and being in a witness stand are all things we don't expect to do. The courtroom process and weeks of preparation are harrowing and life-altering.
Invest time in implementing solid, relevant, health and safety procedures where you can ensure that everyone within your remit of responsibility is implementing them, demonstrating your business is completely compliant.
Avoid finger-pointing, slander, and being in a courtroom surrounded by people whose lives have changed forever as a result of your lack of action. Understand your culpability as a senior member of the business. Make sure it's not you who pays the price.
Simon Olliff is managing director at Banyard Solutions