Business

New rules spark sharp rise in health and safety fines

A construction site seen from above Image copyright Getty Images

The amount UK firms paid out in health and safety fines rose sharply last year following the introduction of tougher rules, new research has found.

Law firm BLM said there were 292 fines issued during the year, with more than £61m paid out in total - a 148% rise since 2015.

The average cost of a fine rose from £69,500 to £211,000.

BLM partner Helen Devery said strong safety processes were vital for businesses "big or small".

The firm attributed the rise to new legislation on health and safety, food hygiene and corporate manslaughter offences introduced in February 2016.

The rules impose fines proportionate to the size of a business, rather than using a universal figure for all offences.

They also judge a penalty using metrics such as the seriousness of an offence and likelihood of harm in cases of "near misses".

BLM said fines for businesses with a turnover more than £50m could now be as high as £10m for health and safety offences, and £20m for corporate manslaughter.

It also said more than 18 fines topped £1m last year, compared with just two in 2015.

These included the £5m fine issued to Merlin Entertainments following the Smiler rollercoaster accident at Alton Towers that injured 16 riders, some seriously.

It remains the largest fine for a single incident and would have been £2.5m higher had Merlin not pleaded guilty.

BLM said that as a sector construction had paid the most in fines, followed by manufacturing, leisure, logistics and transport, industrials and the public sector.