Failure to adhere to health and safety regulations can see businesses encounter many serious issues. From fatalities and serious injuries to members of staff who have not protected in the right way through to crippling fines or even prison time for the companies who fail to put the right processes in place, the seriousness of failing to comply with health and safety laws should not be overlooked.
Furthermore, whilst it was once only smaller companies who were at risk of long-term financial problems if sizeable fines or settlements had to be paid, a recent ruling by the Court of Appeals means that fines will now be based on the severity of individual offences as well as the financial circumstances of the offender. This levels the playing field for companies, meaning that small companies may no longer be financially ruined by small oversights, whilst bigger companies could easily run into financial problems if they fail to put very important safety measures in place.
The Real Health and Safety Act
Despite the huge success of the Health and Safety Act over the forty years since it was brought in, many people still think of it as an inconvenience – a way of forcing companies to put up signs that state the obvious and a way of sucking the heart and soul out of a company. However, the Act is far from this, and in many cases, it is the prevalence of myths about health and safety that is leading people to put up signs they do not need to or to put in place unnecessary regulations that make a workplace far more anodyne than it needs to be.
As such, companies need to find a middle ground. By not following the rules put in place by the Health and Safety Act, businesses risk seeing staff become injured or worse and losing significant sums of money (and potentially seriously damaging their reputation) in the process. However, go too far the other way, introducing policies that are guided by myths or fear, and owners risk alienating staff, hindering processes and sucking the life and soul out of their business.
The best way for business owners to understand exactly what they need to do to effectively comply with legislation is to seek outside health and safety consultancy or to send individuals on dedicated courses to give them the skills and knowledge to make the right decisions and create informed and effectual safety processes.
Failing to comply with health and safety laws in the right way can be damaging whichever way a company goes – too many rules and they risk muddying the waters and frustrating staff and clients alike. Not far enough and they risk injuries or fatalities arising, and in turn could ultimately face huge fines or a prison sentence.
After these recent rulings, larger organisations turning over £1 billion or more can now expect far greater financial punishments when health and safety offences are committed, and accounts are likely to be scrutinised prior to sentencing. However, this will not let smaller companies off the hook, and in many cases even these will find fines increasing, albeit proportionately to their turnover.
The HSE are regularly updating guidelines too, and this means that, whilst a company might once have been fully covered for every eventuality, the same company may no longer be meeting their obligations. In turn, it is worth all business owners seeking outside advice from time to time to ensure they do not get caught out by such changes.
Author bio: Alan Holmes is a freelance writer and blogger. He regularly writes articles about health and safety training, using sites such as Phoenix Health & Safety to stay up to date with all the latest industry news and developments.