Health and safety regulations are mandatory for every business the UK and non-compliance with these rules can lead to heavy fines, or even prison sentences. This subject is taken very seriously by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), with 94% of prosecutions resulting in convictions between 2009-2014.
The maximum penalties for health and safety varies depending on the type of offence, as well as the industry which industry it occurred in. For example, gas safety offences had one of the highest conviction rates in the year 2013/14, but the lowest fines, at just £919 per claim.
On the other hand, the utility industry may have received the lowest number of convictions between 2009/14, however it had one of the highest fines, at £59,629 per claim. Likewise, offences related to explosives are very rare, but can incur fines of £200,000 if corporations aren’t following the law.
Benefits of good health and safety
As well as wanting to have a secure environment for employees, there are some definite financial benefits to following the rules. Information from HSE shows that having the correct procedures in place results in average savings of £300 for minor injuries, £20,500 for serious injuries, and £200,000 for any permanent or life changing injuries.
Having a concrete, effective safety system in place is therefore vital for any business, because the cost of putting these in place massively outweighs the uninsured expenses that occur in dealing with a work place incident.
Adhering to regulations does not just benefit you during convictions and course cases, it also affects day-to-day working life. Creating a safe, clean working environment limits the likelihood of workers become ill or injured, therefore reducing the number of sick days lost. In addition, a better retention of staff often occurs when you put health and safety laws at the heart of your business.
How to avoid a health and safety fine
The utilities industry has many problems with the high number of penalties they receive, with fines for 2013/2014 totalling £149,000 across the UK. Factoring issues, such as gas leaks, fire, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning, makes gas safety one of the most critical areas to take care of.
The majority of fines often occur when appliances are faulty, poorly serviced or badly fitted – and, according to HSE data, are usually the work of an unregistered fitter. For example, a recent case discovered that a welding company had been carrying out illegal gas work at restaurants across the Midlands. The company pleaded guilty to breaching regulations of the Gas Safety Regulations 1998, and was fined £6,600 and ordered to pay costs of £1,118.
There are simple ways to help improve the general health and safety of your company, some may seem fastidious or overly time consuming, but long term they will result in large savings. Here’s a simple checklist to follow:
- Always employ a professional to install, repair and inspect the various utilities appliances in your workplace
- Hold regular training days to teach your employees about health and safety regulations
- Talk to your employees for any feedback or complaints about the work environment
- Investigate health and safety incidents immediately and extensively
- Maintain records of all health and safety breaches and update risk assessments accordingly
- Make employee safety a key part of your business
Without implementing a health and safety programme, organisations don’t just face the upfront costs of lawsuits, they are liable to incur further costs, such as uninsured losses and loss of reputation. There is no way around safety laws, and with the legislation becoming more enforced each year it is always important to keep up with the standards.