Why health and safety will be critical for your construction businesses in 2016

by Alex on May 9, 2016

Corporate Manslaughter



In February 2016, new health and safety sentencing guidelines were introduced. Fines are now based on a company’s turnover, reaching an eye watering £10 million for serious infractions and £20 million or more for fatalities.

Although smaller construction businesses will be directly affected by these new guidelines, it will be the larger organisations with huge turnovers and small margins who will feel the biggest pinch. As a result, it’s anticipated that more rigorous health and safety checks will be passed down to the subcontractors to ensure they’re managing the safety of their workers on site.

Why now?

Along with the new CDM Regulations, these new sentencing guidelines see some of the most dramatic changes to health and safety legislations. Previously, there was a lack of clarity amongst the legal profession, together with judgments being inconsistent; and as a result, many believed the enforcement of health and safety didn’t go far enough.

These new guidelines introduce a more structured and predictable approach to calculating health and safety and corporate manslaughter sentences. It now takes into account the offender’s culpability and potential risk of harm before determining a fine. The sentencing council have provided a detailed guideline which explains the full implications of how courts will be determining these fines Health and Safety Offences Definitive Guideline.

What does it mean for my construction business?

Whether you’re a small, medium or large construction business – these new guidelines were intended to create a stronger regard for health and safety onsite.

Health and safety offences

The most serious offences will range from £450,000 to £10,000,000 depending on the size of a business. With 89% of construction businesses having staff of less than 7 people, the fines of up to £450,000 for serious offences could be detrimental the future of some smaller businesses if they fail to demonstrate safer working practices.


Company size Turnover Potential fines
Large organisation £50 million+ £3,000 – £10 million
Medium organisation £10 million – £50 million £1,000 – £4 million
Small organisation £2 million – £10 million £100 – £1.6 million
Micro organisation upto £2 million £50 – £450,000


The threat of jail for company directors, or direct managers is still in place, however there is now more structure to determine the length of jail time for serious offences or fatalities, ranging from 26 weeks, up to 2 years.

Corporate Manslaughter Guidelines

Since 2007, corporations could be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious mismanagement resulting in the loss of life of staff onsite. In the revised sentencing guidelines, fatalities would still incur corporate manslaughter charges, but the fines are now more structured. Large businesses who’s turnover greatly exceeds the threshold, could now also face unlimited fines.


Company size Turnover Potential fines
Large organisation £50 million+ £3 million  – £20 million
Medium organisation £10 million – £50 million £1.2 million – £7.5 million
Small organisation £2 million – £10 million £350,000 – 2.8 million
Micro organisation upto £2 million £180,000 – £800,000


More pressure from your clients to perform on health and safety

So what will we see more of? It’s likely the largest enterprises will wear the biggest risk, with squeezed profit margins, a £20 million or larger fine has serious ramifications for their businesses. As a result, it’s likely, more rigorous health and safety management will be in place on larger sites.

Risk assessments and method statements will be reviewed with a fine tooth comb, safe working systems will be rechecked and businesses will put an even more pro-active approach towards health and safety amongst all site workers.

As a result

The sentencing council have now issued a clear message; consider health and safety a key business priority, otherwise it could be to your company’s detriment.

Alex Green is the CEO of HANDS HQ; an online app that helps UK construction businesses create site specific risk assessments and method statements in minutes.

This article originally appeared on our partner, Voltimum’s, website

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: