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Time to sharpen up your approach to health & safety

The ‘Sentencing Guidelines’ introduced in England and Wales in 2016 saw a significant rise in the size of fines being handed down by the courts in health and safety cases. In 2016, nineteen companies received fines of a million pounds or more, compared to only three in 2015 and none at all in 2014. Further to the increase in financial penalties 46 company directors and senior managers were prosecuted under health and safety laws in 2016 and prison sentences are becoming increasingly likely. Businesses operating north of the border should recognise that the Scottish courts are likely to follow the English and Welsh Sentencing Guidelines.

The Guidelines have made it more important than ever for your business to proactively manage their health and safety provisions which should include your Health and Safety Policy, risk assessments, safe systems of work and staff training. If your health and safety documents are hiding in a dusty folder on the shelf which, for example, only gets opened every six months to record the details of the fire drill then they would definitely benefit from a thorough review. Not only should they be up to date and accurately reflect your business activities but they should also have been communicated throughout your business and be understood by all your employees.

The reasons for having practical, effective, specific and up to date health and safety documentation are compelling but what about aspects beyond the ‘paperwork’ – the human element?

A safety culture (good or bad) within a business can be determined by what its employees actually do rather than what they say and this applies from the boardroom to the shop floor. Attitudes and behaviours demonstrated by all employees are a good barometer of the health and safety culture within a business.

‘Safety culture’ is a frequently used term, but what does it actually mean and how do you measure it?

A safety culture cannot be bought off the shelf as a package; it takes determined commitment and involvement, an understanding of the required outcomes and how these will be achieved and genuine desire for it to succeed.

While the sentencing Guidelines do not impose any further burden upon business the consequences of a successful prosecution now even further outweigh the costs of taking the time and effort in implementing and maintaining a robust health and safety management system.

If you would like to discuss a review of your health and safety management systems or to learn more about the benefits of introducing and sustaining a positive health culture please contact the TL Dallas Risk Management team by emailing riskmanagement@tldallas.com.