To Be (Safe) Or Not to Be – That is the question!

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Health and safety fines issued throughout 2016 totalled £32,438,677.

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Putting aside my little twist on a quote from the Bard – recent research has shown that it’s much more cost effective to comply with health and safety legislation and to meet employer’s duties; rather than leaving it to chance that nothing will go wrong and with it the subsequent enforcement action.

The Numbers that Matter: The Health and Safety Consultancy; Arinite analysed health and safety fines issued throughout 2016 and they established that fines totalling £32,438,677 were handed down by the Courts. They also analysed how much businesses are spending on the measures that they introduced to ensure compliance with the law. The consultancy found that Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) can expect to pay between £5,000 and £40,000 per year to keep their house in order.

What Does This Spend Cover? This spend (by those businesses in the SME bracket) included the maintenance in health and safety systems, e.g. policies, procedures, risk assessments etc., insurance premiums and access to competent health and safety advice and assistance.

Non-Compliance Is More Expensive! The consultancy then took the £40,000 figure away from the average fine. Their conclusion; if your business is fined it will cost you at least £75,000 more than if you had taken appropriate steps to become compliant with the law.

The difference between the cost of compliance and the potential fine is much greater for larger businesses.

Not Just Fines – the “Hidden” Costs: It should be borne in mind that as well as the fines you will have to pay; there is very likely to be further costs; including; legal costs, lost management time, lost production, increased insurance costs, reputational damage, loss of future business, etc. to factor in. As the level of fines are increasing all the time, the numbers will continue to stack up in favour of compliance with the law rather than leaving it to chance!

Resources Applied to Health & Safety is Money Well Spent: Another important factor for Employers / Managers to consider is how the courts view those businesses who have ignored compliance duties. If there is evidence of cost cutting at the expense of health and safety; or if a company has a persistent poor safety record then any penalty handed down will be greater. If employers can prove to the court that reasonable effort has been made to be compliant; then the penalty the business will face will reflect this effort.

Employers / Managers should maintain records that show how much time and money and effort has been spent on compliance with Health & Safety legislation. For example; the investment in competent advice and assistance with meeting employer’s duties, the provision of employee training, the spend on PPE, investments on safer machinery etc. If things do go wrong then this (documented) evidence may be useful in proving that you have taken appropriate steps to reduce the risks to a person’s health and safety.

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Ernie TaylorHealth & Safety ConsultantRead More by this author

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