The number of company directors and senior managers prosecuted for health and safety offences has tripled over the past year, according to figures released by law firm Clyde & Co. In the 12 months leading to 31 March 2016, the HSE prosecuted 46 directors and managers, up from 15 the year before. Of the 46, 12 were convicted to prison sentences, the longest of which was 2 years.
The prosecutions have also led to a significant increase in fines. Clyde & Co found that in the 6 months after the new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences were introduced in February 2016, the value of fines issued by the HSE increased by 43% to £20.6million, compared to the £14.4million that was issued in the same months in 2015. Medium sized organisations with a turnover of £10-50million were hit the hardest, with fines removing a considerable proportion of their turnover.
The news comes after a string of high profile prosecutions throughout 2015-16, including that of Alton Towers theme park operators Merlin Attractions, who were ordered to pay £5million for health and safety failings that led to The Smiler rollercoaster crash, injuring 16 people, 2 of which needed leg amputations. More than a year on and the aftermath of this case is still being felt as Merlin Attractions announced plans to make 60-70 redundancies ahead of the 2017 season, after suffering a £14million drop in revenue in the months after the incident.
Steve Terry, Managing Director commented:
"Legislation on the culpability of directors and senior managers varies from country to country. The UK has seen a 'crack-down' on those directors who are lax when it comes to health and safety - you only need to take a look at the revised sentencing guidelines and rise in the number of prosecutions to see that the government is committed to making health and safety a boardroom issue. As a company, we are seeing a huge increase in the numbers of directors and senior managers taking their responsibilities seriously in committing to relevant training like the IOSH Safety for Senior Executives course, and I would expect to see these numbers continue to rise on the back of sobering statistics like these."