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Huge Fines for Construction Fatalities

10th July 2024

Those who keep a keen eye on the safety news will be aware that the sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences were reviewed and updated way back in 2016.

The guidelines from the Sentencing Council introduced three key factors in determining fines: the degree of harm caused, the culpability of the offender and the turnover of the offending organisation. From that point, the Courts were empowered to consider aggravating factors, such as cost-cutting at the expense of safety, in addition to mitigating factors, such as a previously good health and safety record.

Increased penalties for serious offending were introduced because, in the past, some offenders did not receive fines that properly reflected the crimes committed.

In 2016 alone, nineteen companies received fines of £1m or more (the largest being £5 million), compared to only three in 2015, and none in 2014. Whilst the frequency of those fines may appear to have abated in the years that followed, two fairly recent fines demonstrate that the costs for getting health and safety wrong remain very high, and in line with those that followed the introduction of the new guidelines.

In the first case, construction giant BAM Nutall admitted to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, following a fatal incident that occurred in Leeds, in October 2017. The firm was fined £2.345 million and ordered to pay £25,770 in costs by Leeds Magistrates’ Court on 12 June 2024.

In the second case, which was also heard in June 2024, chemical giant Tata was fined £1.125 million and ordered to pay £60,603.54 in costs, following a fatal incident, which involved a Scaffolder who stepped into a trough of calcium hydroxide. The injured party tragically died of complications just over 12 months later.

Speaking of these incidents and the fines that followed, Dallas Cooper, Scaffolding Safety Advisor at SIMIAN, said:

“The simple reality is that tragic incidents like these are simple to prevent with adequate planning, correct communications and good levels of supervision. The cost involved implementing the required levels of control very often pale into insignificance when compared with the fines that the Courts are now empowered to impose. Quite aside from the tragic human consequences of workplace incidents, not only is good safety performance the correct ethical approach, it is also the right thing to do for business protection.”

Our experienced, scaffolding-qualified H&S Advisors can assist with implementing the required training and protective measures that are needed on site to prevent incidents of this nature. Call 0345 602 2418 or visit here for more information on our scaffolding support services, which are available to specifiers and scaffolding contractors alike.