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Farm safety - HSE plans major inspection campaign - 10 fatalities in February 2017 alone

24.07.2017

Farmers Weekly reported a shock rise in farm deaths with 10 in a single month.  We understand a further 3 occurred in the first week of March, giving a dreadful statistic of 13 fatalities in a 5 week period.  This is much worse than “average” figures of approximately 3 per month.

It is no surprise the HSE’s Business Plan for 2017-18 includes a targeted programme of approximately 20,000 proactive inspections… This will deliver 7 major inspection campaigns (each with at least 500 inspections). Of the six sectors to be targeted, agriculture tops the list.

On top of these stark figures and the promise of proactive inspections are new Sentencing Guidelines for health & safety offences.  Any business which has an accident within the meaning of medium or high culpability can expect a dramatically increased fine.

The guidelines require an assessment of culpability and risk of harm which is then applied to tables based on turnover.  Their impact on high turnover companies is striking, for example:-

Fines for fatalities against businesses with turnovers under £2 million may seem modest in comparison, but may not be so modest for a small family business, for example:-

In medium turnover businesses the fines go up:-

How should businesses respond to this new sentencing regime? There is a massive difference between a “low” culpability starting point fine of £130,000 compared with £950,000 for “high” culpability (based on medium turnover). Businesses need to address their exposure to “high” culpability fines by eliminating “high” culpability behaviour, such as:-

and instead ensure

A good start is a review of the health & safety policy required under Section 2(3) HSWA-  and to examine how far it is being put into practice daily. Understanding management of health & safety is key- HSE Guidance is available such as Managing for health and safety (HSG65) and Leading Health & Safety At Work (INDG 417 rev1).

Andrew Clarke is a health & safety and regulatory solicitor at Gullands [email protected] 01622 678341

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