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Tough new penalties for breaches of health and safety laws


The Sentencing Council has introduced new guidelines that could see much higher fines or even prison sentences imposed on construction companies and individuals who breach health and safety laws.

As the Health and Safety Executive may start to ramp up prosecutions following last year’s new CDM regulations, this is a further indication of how seriously health and safety law is being taken – and rightly so.

Eye-watering fines of up to £10 million or two years in custody will be possible for serious breaches.

Lack of knowledge

Although construction employers know health and safety is important, many are still unaware of the guidelines, and how they could be applied.

However, there is a simple way for employers to minimise the risk of these tough new sentences – which is to understand and comply with CDM and other relevant construction-related regulations.

We all want to see people stay safe on site and not have their health harmed. Putting the right procedures in place, as outlined in the regulations and guidance, is the best way to do that.

On the flip-side, if someone is seriously injured on site and the employer has failed to put the necessary procedures in place to minimise health and safety risks, they could be held responsible and face a hefty fine or even imprisonment.

Evidence that could be taken into account when assessing high culpability could be failure to comply with recognised industry standards, such as the CDM Guidance documents 

Possible fines for health and safety breaches under the new sentencing guidelines

High culpability – high level of harm (harm category 1)

Organisation size  Starting point for fine      
 Large (turnover £50m+) £2.4m
 Medium (turnover £10m-£50m) £950,000
 Small (turnover £2m-£10m) £250,000
 Micro (turnover up to £2m) £160,000

How CITB can help

The CDM Wizard app is there to help develop construction phase plans for small projects from your smart phone. It can even make you aware of significant construction risks.

The industry guidance to the CDM Regulations can be downloaded here. The app has been downloaded 50,000 times, and the documents 150,000 times, which means many companies have already found them useful in their own planning.

Responding to the guidelines

It isn’t just a case of being aware the new sentencing guidelines exist. It is about responding to them and making a difference.

The advent of average speed cameras alongside roadworks has, at last, changed drivers’ behaviour when tempted to drive too quickly. Similarly, these sentencing guidelines could drive further improvement in health and safety on construction sites.

For individual companies, fines like these could be the difference between staying in business or facing bankruptcy. But the penalties are also there to encourage companies to re-assess the risk to their businesses and commit to further improving standards.

Our industry is getting safer and we are starting to reduce the risk of occupational diseases. These new sentencing guidelines are tough, but they are there to make sure that we all take health and safety seriously.

So, get informed about the Regulations, get informed about the new guidelines and let’s make construction even safer and healthier.


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