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Prosecution of directors and managers treble in the year to March 2016

The latest HSE figures show that the number of directors and senior managers ‘successfully’ prosecuted for Health & Safety offences has trebled in the last year. Almost all cases involved either serious injury or death of an employee.

Critically the biggest impact has been on businesses in the ‘medium’ size bracket therefore potentially impacting heavily on any substantial farming business. These fines are based on turnover rather than profit. That means that the historic mitigation that profitability of a prosecuted business impacts on its ability to pay any fine has fallen away.

Thirty four of the forty six prosecuted were found guilty (a very high ‘success’ rate) and resulted in twelve prison sentences. HSE commented prosecution of directors is intended to hold them to account for their failings when we have evidence that they have breached the law, for example when the director/manager was personally responsible for the matters relating to the offence.

The salient point here – in relation to agriculture – is that it is often very much easier – due to the close nature of working relationships and the regular, direct instructions from a director to an employee – to establish the link between the director and their teams and hence to evidence the personal aspects than it is in some other sectors.

How can we achieve the best possible defence: ensure that your safety management system is regularly reviewed and updated by refreshing the policy and by a detailed and regular review of each individual Risk Assessment. A little and often approach combined with a formal, annual review that maintains a high quality body of evidence provides the best platform for evidencing compliance to a satisfactory standard.