Poor Health & Safety practices could cost you 10%+ of your turnover

Health & Safety is often a much-derided topic, with tabloid newspapers relishing stories such as the school that banned a blind girl from using a walking cane because it was considered a trip hazard.

But while we might all tut and despair when soldiers are banned from firing mortars in training because the sound of the explosion breaches the 137 decibel limit, there’s no doubt that the saner rules help keep workers safe and have prevented many accidents and deaths.

It’s something the UK has long taken seriously, with our Health & Safety rules considered something of a gold standard even before we joined the European Union. It’s also something the government has kept its eye on, introducing tough new sentencing guidelines for Health & Safety and Corporate Manslaughter at the beginning of 2016.

These guidelines have already proved to have teeth. When a customer was run over by a company vehicle at a branch of builders’ merchant Travis Perkins, the company was slapped with a £2 million fine. If the company had been found to be more culpable than it was, the cost could have been much greater.

The sentencing guidelines assess your company turnover, the degree of harm that has been caused and whether you are considered to have ‘very high’, ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’ culpability.

It’s so important for your company’s reputation and finances to be a safe employer. If you do drop the ball and an accident happens, the courts can now demand eye-watering fines.

The biggest fines can be handed down to businesses with turnover in excess of £50 million. If an accident causes the most serious levels of harm (death, significantly reduced life expectancy or impairment leading to lifelong dependency), companies of this size can be hit with fines of between £2.6m and £10m.

Even if your business is small or medium sized, you can expect fines to reach 10% of your turnover or more.

Taking a sloppy approach to Health & Safety just isn’t worth the risk.

If these figures have given you pause for thought, it might be worth while visiting the Health & Safety Executive’s website for advice and guidance. And if you then think it’s wisest to invest in new safety equipment or fund better training for your employees, be sure to ask your accountant for help with finding the best approach.

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