In February, Health and Safety Matters published an article saying that the tougher penalties that have been imposed are having a positive impact on the reduction of health and safety issues. But whilst this sounds good, is it really going far enough?

It was five years ago that The Sentencing Council’s Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety & Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline was implemented, and following this the average fine handed out by courts increased from just over £54,000 in 2015-16 – the year before the guidelines were introduced – to over £150,000 in 2018-19. And in fact many fines since the guidelines were introduced have topped £1 million.

Alongside this, across the same period, the number of enforcement notices issued by the Health and Safety Executive to remedy breaches without court action has decreased.

The article in Health and Safety Matters stated that “IOSH’s vision for a safer and healthier world of work focuses on the prevention of accidents, injuries and ill health, and recognises and champions many benefits to good health and safety management. It says the level of fines and reputational impact undoubtedly makes businesses more determined to prevent accidents and work-related ill health.”

But protecting workforces shouldn’t be about finance. Employers have a duty of care for their staff and they should make health and safety a priority regardless of what the penalty may be if they do not.

At Sky Blue Safety we have worked with many businesses and the one thing that continually crops up is who is responsible for health and safety and how much of a priority it is. Rather than it being someone’s only job to understand the requirements and implement them, it can too often be just one of many tasks that someone has and it inevitably drops to the bottom of the pile.

We have seen many organisations tick the boxes to get their risk assessments done and policies in place, but then the files simply gather dust and nothing is ever done with them. In reality, everything becomes theoretical rather than actions actually being implemented.

Whose job is health and safety at your organisation? Do you have the right processes in place and is someone in charge of ensuring they’re followed?

Whilst IOSH is right that fines and reputational impact have been strong incentives for businesses to take health and safety more seriously, it must come down to an employer’s desire to do the right thing by their workforce.

If you’re struggling to stay on top of your health and safety, please have a chat with us. Fines are easy to pay, but compromising the safety of your employees should never be a risk any business is happy to take.

If you need it, we’re here to help. Please get in touch.

Read the full Health and Safety Matters article.