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January 2017: Health and Safety news

24 January 2017

  1. Company fine for H & S breach halved on appeal: A fine of £160,000 imposed on MJ Allen Holdings Ltd following a guilty plea to an offence under s33 of the Health & Safety at Work Act was reduced to £80,000 by the Court of Appeal (21.12.2016) to reflect significant mitigation which the Judge had failed to take into account when sentencing. The CA felt that significant mitigating factors should have driven down the starting point of a £240,000 fine, where the available ‘spread’ under the H& S Definitive Sentencing Guidelines was £100,000 - £600,000. Further, the court thought it highly relevant to have regard to the company’s small operating profit, as the net fine (after a 1/3 discount for the guilty plea) of £160,000 which the Judge arrived at represented 23% of the company’s operating profit. The CA thought the Judge should have picked a starting at £120,000, and then deducted the full third for the early plea of guilty, to arrive at £80,000.

    It is particularly welcome to note that the Court recognized that despite a significant annual turnover of £32,000,000, the company was a relatively small (240 employees) family-run business who had found trading difficult since the Brexit referendum, and that any fine should have regard to the operating profit.

  2. It has been reported that the Health and Safety Executive charged businesses a record £15million penalty fees through a new policy of levying a fee for intervening in businesses it considers has materially breached H & S law, irrespective of any formal enforcement action, which represents a 23% leap in fees reaped from the year before.

  3. It has been reported by the BBC that two men have been arrested over the death of a 15-year old girl who died after apparently suffering an allergic reaction to an Indian takeaway meal. A police and Trading Standards investigation is continuing and both men are being held on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter by gross negligence.

    Some may recall that in April of last year a restaurant boss was convicted of manslaughter and six food safety crimes and sentenced to 6 years when it was proved that to save money he had substituted peanut powder for almond powder, triggering a fatal allergic reaction in a customer who had specifically told staff he could not eat nuts.

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