Our Head of Estates, Phil Davies, explores the recent changes to Health and Safety regulations that are sending shockwaves in the facilities management world.
Health and safety has never been so important. it has always been a no-brainer that each of us owes it to ourselves and our co-workers to ensure that we get home safe and sound at the end of the day.
This only been made more apparent most recently when the Sentencing Council published a new set of guidelines for those who commit manslaughter and yesterday’s news about a Sheffield firm fined £500,000 over workman’s death.
As of the 31st July the council, which promotes greater consistency of sentencing in English and Welsh courts, has for the first time produced a definitive set of recommendations.
This includes a step-by-step guide that judges must follow in determining sentences for gross negligence manslaughter, which is considered the most serious offence that can be committed by an individual for a health and safety breach.
You might ask yourself how this has come about?
Rising figures in deaths and injuries in the workplace along with the media spotlight surrounding the Hillsborough disaster and Grenfell Tower fire have made for a stronger argument in recent years.
In 2017/2018 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported that 144 workers we’re killed at work.
An estimated 609,000 non-fatal injuries to workers according to self-reports we’re identified from the Labour Force Survey in 2016/17
If that wasn’t enough to make you think, over 31.2 million working days, we’re lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury in 2016/2017.
Therefore, it’s no wonder that new changes to the law have been introduced.
Health and Safety compliance should be a priority for all business owners. Failure to comply with the law can not only result in injury or loss of life to employees but imprisonment for those parties who are deemed responsible.
In the case of Gross Negligence Manslaughter this is where a person, for example an employer was fully aware of their health and safety responsibilities but chose to ignore them resulting in serious injury, death, or illness.
What does this mean?
Under these new guidelines introduced by the Sentencing Council anyone convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence can face a prison sentence of up to 18 years.
Charges can be brought against an offender when he/she is alleged to be in breach of a duty of care towards a victim, which causes their death and amounts to a criminal act or omission.
However, the charge can be brought against employers. For example, where they have shown total disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by cost-cutting that has led to someone being killed.
For those typical workplace cases of gross negligence manslaughter, the guidelines mean that the starting point sentence will be four years’ imprisonment, with a range of three to seven years depending on other factors.
Where there has been ‘a blatant disregard for a very high risk of death’ and, or a motivation to avoid costs, then the starting point would be eight years or even 12 years, with a range up to 18 years.
In February, this year, Tata Steel we’re sentenced over the death of one of their maintenance engineers who was fatally crushed, despite two previous incidents at the same plant. The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £1.4m and ordered to pay £140,000 costs.
Only last month, detectives at Scotland Yard admitted that they are considering offences including gross negligence manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act as part of their investigations into Grenfell Tower.
New ISO:45001 Certification – are you certified?
According to the International Labour Organisation, who we’re setup to bring together governments, employers and workers of 187 member states, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes, reported that over 7,600 people die each day from work-related accidents or diseases – that’s over 2.78 million every year.
A significant figure that has led to the introduction of a new international standard ISO:45001 in March this year, of which Atlas is currently preparing to embark of our accreditation journey.
The international standard provides business with a framework to be able to manage risks and opportunities to help prevent work-related injury and ill health to workers.
The ISO is applicable to any organisation regardless of its type, size or activity that wishes to establish, implement and maintain an Occupational Health and Safety management system. The management systems help an organisation to eliminate hazards and minimise risks (including system deficiencies). Whilst taking advantage of opportunities and address OH&S management system nonconformities associated with its activities.
As we are currently work towards becoming ISO certified, we, like other organisations, will be able to demonstrate our committed to implementing high standards of health and safety.
As part of our commitment to our staff and to support business development, we have created a Health and Safety team, staffed by Chartered Safety professionals, who are promoting a safe working environment, throughout our organisation.
The message is therefore clear, top level, Senior Executives must act now to ensure that their organisations comply with Health and Safety law and legislation. Failure to do so can lead to penalties and imprisonment following an incident within their organisation.