UK: The Health And Safety Sentencing Guidelines, One Year On...

One year after the health and safety guidelines were introduced, partner Andrew Litchfield sat down with John Southall at Southalls to discuss the changes that have been made and how businesses can prepare to be in line with the guidelines.


John Southall: So, Andrew it's been just over 12 months now since the health and safety sentencing guidelines were introduced. What do you think are the main changes that we have noticed?

Andrew Litchfield: So I think two big changes, the larger of those is obviously the fact that we are now getting significantly higher sanctions and fines for breaching the Health and Safety At Work Act. Its routine now to see fines of more than £1,000,000 for non-fatal cases, for things which previously would have been dealt with in the Magistrates Court perhaps, so significantly higher sanctions from the Court. And then secondly the other thing that has happened is that individuals, company directors, senior people within organisations are being investigated and prosecuted far more than they ever used to be for individual offences.

John: I totally agree with that and certainly Mears next enforcement obviously the type of fines that the prosecutions I was involved in attracted way lower than what we are seeing now and I know that we have had more £1,000,000 fines in the last 12 months than we have ever had since 1974 so yeah this goes without saying.

Do you think to your mind that this has gone up in a linear fashion across all sizes of business?

Andrew: So the big factor in the size of the sentence is the turnover of the organisation that is being sentenced.

And what we are generally seeing is a greater proportional effect on medium sized organisations and perhaps smaller organisations, so medium is between £10,000,000 and £50,000,000 turnover. There, the proportionate effect on them is higher than on the very large organisations so £50,000,000 turnover plus, where the fines have perhaps not been as big as the guidelines would lead you to believe so far. I think they are going to creep up gradually over time but in the last year, while there have been some big ones, they are not perhaps as big as they might otherwise have been.

John: Do you think that's because, obviously the very large organisations the sentencing guidelines doesn't then have a guide. So a good example of that was the Merlin or the Alton Towers prosecution recently which I believe was £5,000,000. That's obviously, I believe, the highest fine we have had, do you think that is going to ratchet up over time as the Judges get more comfortable that somebody else has been fined £5,000,000 so therefore they feel they can go a bit higher or?

Andrew: I think it will be interesting to see how it works but the purpose of the sentence is to get a message home to shareholders and to the management of the business that you can't break health and safety legislation and it has got to hurt, that is the point of the sentence. So I think we will see larger fines for larger organisations. The Judges in the Courts I think will get more confident in knowing that those sentences are OK and the Court of Appeal won't be interested in changing them so I think probably it is only a matter of time before we get a health and safety fine of more than £10,000,000.

John: In terms of going forward then, what do you think businesses need to do or need to change or prepare for in light of these guidelines?

Andrew: So the idea of the sentencing guidelines is to make sentencing more transparent. The Judges have a series of steps that they have to follow in order to arrive at the ultimate sentence and, as we have mentioned, a big factor in that is the table of turnover.

So it is possible now for an organisation to see which category it falls into and work out for itself what a possible fine might look like and if you do that exercise, where I think that takes you is that it becomes far more obvious and far more logical to spend some more money now preventing an accident and reviewing your systems and procedures to stop it from happening. Because in the end that is likely to be far cheaper and it is also likely to prevent any reputational damage or other business cost. So I think because the sentence is so much bigger it is more logical to spend more time and more money up front preventing it from happening than has ever been the case before.

John: So Andrew, in summary, what do you feel the key takeaway points are then in terms of the health and safety sentencing guidelines?

Andrew: So I think firstly understand that the sentences and the sanctions that the Courts will give you for breach of health and safety legislation are now far more significant than they have ever been before. The fines are going to be material now to the business.

As a result of that, I think secondly it is very important to review the systems and procedures that you have got in place to identify risk and manage risk It is really important that they are relevant, that they are up to date, that they reflect current business practices. And then thirdly make sure that those systems and procedures are being operated on the ground, people understand them, that they are trained in them and that they follow them because prevention is going to be far less costly than trying to deal with something after it has gone wrong.

John: OK Andrew, thank you for your insight today, as always fantastic.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
26 Sep 2019, Seminar, London, UK

Providing GCs, Heads of Legal and senior in-house lawyers with timely, topical and practical legal advice on a variety of topics.

8 Oct 2019, Seminar, Birmingham, UK

Supporting the development of paralegals, trainees and lawyers of up to five years' PQE by providing valuable knowledge and guidance together with practical tips.

10 Oct 2019, Seminar, London, UK

Supporting the development of paralegals, trainees and lawyers of up to five years' PQE by providing valuable knowledge and guidance together with practical tips.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions