Home>Industry Update>Company News>New workplace sentencing guidelines a wake-up call for fleets

New workplace sentencing guidelines a wake-up call for fleets

01 February 2016

New guidelines for sentences imposed on companies for health and safety offences in the workplace, including corporate manslaughter should serve as a serious wake-up call for companies operating company vehicles.

From February 1 2016, tougher sentences will be introduced for businesses that have breached health and safety regulations resulting in serious injury or death. The move is aimed at influencing companies who do not prioritise high standards of health and safety throughout their organisation.

These will see companies handed tougher financial penalties, graded on company size, turnover, culpability and the level of harm caused to the victim(s). Individuals should also be reminded of the fines and jail sentences they could face should they contravene any health and safety regulations under Section 33 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The leading independent compliance management provider is urging fleets and their drivers to fully understand the new guidelines, in order to mitigate risk of serious prosecution for a company or driver should an incident occur.

The new guidelines consider a range of factors for sentencing companies that have breached regulations, including turnover, the harm caused to victims, level of risk and culpability involved. For example, a company with an annual turnover of no more than £2million could face a fine of £450,000, should a disregard for legislation result in death. For individuals, a similar breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 could result in a maximum prison term of two years.

These guidelines are especially important for Operator Licence Holders. Breaching health and safety regulations that result in fines or prison terms could lead to licences being refused, leading to further reputational and financial repercussions.

For health and safety best practice, all fleets should be thoroughly investigating any incidents that occur when an employee is driving on business, as if they were making a RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) report, despite these not being required by the Health and Safety Executive.

The onus is on both employer and employee to ensure health and safety in the workplace is kept to a high standard; both have a moral duty not to place the company or themselves at risk by violating basic rules. However, employers should be reminding drivers that these places of work include using company vehicles on a public road, where they have less direct influence on a driver’s actions.

Use of a mobile phone is a prime example; we have recently seen drivers convicted of death by dangerous driving given lengthy custodial sentences, but their employers seem to be doing little about it. These revised guidelines should serve as a serious wake-up call for the consequences for companies and individuals should an incident occur.

Malcolm Maycock, managing director of Licence Bureau