Businesses are expected to re-examine their health and safety compliance procedures and ensure supply chain compliance among contractors after new guidelines recommend tougher penalties for corporate manslaughter.
The Sentencing Council has proposed strict new penalties of up to £20 million for the most extreme workplace injuries. It is intended that these new guidelines will serve as a wake-up call to businesses in England and Wales.
The Council, which develops sentencing guidelines for the judiciary, is keen to crackdown on negligent employers.
Consistant approach to sentencing
Council member Michael Caplan QC, said: "Businesses that put people at risk by flouting their responsibilities are undercutting those that play by the rules and do their best to keep people safe. Our proposals will help ensure a consistent approach to sentencing, allowing fair and proportionate sentences across the board, with some of the most serious offenders facing tougher penalties."
According to the Health and Safety Executive, in the last year 133 employees were killed at work in the UK. On top of this, 70 members of public were fatally injured in work-related accidents.
The Council report found that because of the rarity of these cases, judges are often unsure how severe the penalty should be. These guidelines propose stricter punishments, combined with introducing a level of uniformity from case-to-case.
Largest ever fine
Previously, the largest fine imposed on a business for corporate manslaughter was £500,000 - after an employee died in an explosion. New guidelines could increase fines substantially. It is thought that a medium company (turning over between £10m and £50m annually) could receive a fine of between £130,000 and £3.25m, depending on the severity of the injury and the culpability of the defendant.
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