The research carried out by IOSH and the legal firm Osborne Clarke reveals a dramatic escalation in health and safety fines. In 2015/16 the top 20 highest fines totalled £38.58m. The total for all 660 HSE prosecutions the year before was £38.3m.
Nineteen companies received fines of over £1m over the period compared with only three in 2015 and none in 2014. The largest fine was £5m imposed on the owners of Alton Towers, Merlin Entertainments Group, after five people were seriously injured following a crash on its Smiler ride, two people required leg amputations.
Last month there was a record £2.2m fine for the homeware retailer Wilko. The fine was a record for a non-fatal injury on an individual employee.
The Alton Towers fine in 2016 was two and a half times the largest fine in 2015 and ten times the largest fine in 2014. The research also points out that largest fines are no longer solely linked to actual injuries but to risk and turnover.
The report also reveals that individuals within companies are also receiving higher sentences following health and safety breaches. In 2015-2016 it has been reported that 46 company directors and senior managers were prosecuted, in contrast to an average of 24 over the previous five years.
Under the new rules individual directors found guilty of flagrant disregard for health and safety or of showing a ‘blind eye’ mentality face stiffer penalties.
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