British Safety Council says newly published Sentencing Council’s Definitive Guideline on health and safety and corporate manslaughter offences is a strong argument for focusing on prevention and good governance 

The British Safety Council has welcomed the release of the Sentencing Council’s Definitive Guideline on Health and Safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences published on Tuesday 3rd November 2015. This guideline will come into effect from 1st February 2016 and will apply to England and Wales.
Neal Stone, Deputy Chief Executive of the British Safety Council, said: “This guideline has been eagerly awaited since the consultation closed at the beginning of the year. We believe that this definitive guideline is clear in presenting the business case for good health and safety. It will help to concentrate minds with the argument that it is better to prevent injury and ill health than face the costs associated with getting it wrong.
“The British Safety Council fully supports the principle underlying criminal sanctions set out in the guidelines, that is, penalties should reflect the culpability of organisations and individuals found to have been in breach and the harm caused.
“However, our concern relates to the relatively low level of awareness among businesses of these new guidelines and the possible outcomes in relation to sentencing, and specifically in relation to individuals potentially receiving custodial sentences. In this respect, ensuring that executive and senior managers are sighted and aware of these liabilities is an important element not only in relation to good governance but also in relation to the opportunity to gain understanding of what good health and safety means to your organisation and the people working within it.
“The real test is whether the significant increase in penalties will contribute to greater compliance and a reduction in workplace injuries and ill health occurrences. Our role is to assist organisations to achieve compliance and this will be our focus.”
Commenting on this guideline too, Laura Cameron, Partner and Head of the Litigation & Regulatory Group at Pinsent Masons, said: “UK Plc has been sent a clear message that the regulatory authorities expect health and safety to remain a key corporate priority. Boardrooms across the country will be taking note, and if they are not already doing so, company directors should be pushing health and safety issues to the top of their agenda.”