£20m fine for companies if workers die on site » SMEInsider

£20m fine for companies if workers die on site

UK businesses are not trying hard enough to keep their workers safe, says the Sentencing Council, and should be fined up to £20m for “corporate manslaughter” if their negligence leads to death.

The government body, which advises judges on appropriate sentencing, says that existing fines are too small to hurt most companies financially and so fail to incentivise them to improve their safety measures. This relates to a range of health and safety issues, ranging from fatal gas leaks and injuries caused by machinery through to passers-by killed by falling scaffolding.

The guidance also extends to food-related violations, with the Sentencing Council advising that similar rules apply to restaurants and takeaways with poor hygiene or pest infestations. Companies whose food health and safety offences prove fatal could be fined up to £10m, they said.

133 workers and 70 members of the public were killed in UK workplace-related accidents last year, with construction workers at the greatest risk. The new guidelines, which are still in draft stage, will be opened up to public consultation in order to gather the perspectives of those working in industry, as well as regulatory and criminal justice systems.

We want to ensure that these crimes don’t pay. They can have extremely serious consequences and businesses that put people at risk by flouting their responsibilities are undercutting those that maintain proper standards and do their best to keep people safe,” said Michael Caplan QC, a member of the Sentencing Council.

Our proposals will help ensure a consistent approach to sentencing, allowing fair and proportionate sentences across the board, with some of the most serious offenders facing tougher penalties.”



  • Richard John Francis

    Whilst Michael Caplan has been involved in many high profile legal cases (Bowbelle / McCanns / Pinochet extradition) – what experience does he have of balancing ‘risk & safety’ against broad commercial considerations?
    Whilst no-one (hopefully) wants to see needless loss of life – all such measures will do – is drive a culture of ‘self employed – self certified contractorship’. People will no longer wish to employ as employees pose too great a risk to the survival of your business if genuine mistake is made (and they WILL be made – guaranteed). Who will then train the next generation up if the only folk wanted are experienced self employed contractors? What happens when the ageing self employed contractors no longer want to work any longer?
    Isn’t there a huge danger here of ‘over-regulation’? Corporations can afford the likes of Mr Caplan to defend themselves should they face prosecution in the case of mistakes. It’s the huge tranche of smaller business who can’t afford a Caplan who will suffer – and they (like me) will be employing ‘self-certified’ contractors for as long as they can find them – when really – they’d love to take on and train up new people. It’s just too risky these days to do so.

  • brianm101

    Fines on companies and organisations is the wrong way, in fact it can even mean the victim (tax /council payer) paying the fines when its a public organisation that’s guilty!

    The fines should always be aimed at the individuals responsible, be that the worker, supervisor or director, even jail time for the most negligent of offences. If no one can be found responsible for the action by the company/orginisation then the Managing director or board should become personally liable.