Farmers could face tougher penalties

We recently wrote about Tackling the Issue of Farm Safety following yet another case of a fall through a fragile skylight on a farm building. Farming continues to be one of the UK's most dangerous industries to work. Last year alone 37 people died and some 14,000 suffered serious injury as a result of farming accidents.

Recent changes to sentencing could mean that in the future farmers will face tougher penalties for breaching health and safety laws.  Under the Sentencing Council’s new guidelines for health and safety offences and corporate manslaughter, penalties will take into account the level of harm, culpability and turnover which could have a serious impact on the business. 

The objective of the new guidelines is to ensure that there is a consistent approach to the sentencing of health and safety and corporate manslaughter cases.   Factors such as past convictions, a poor health and safety record and whether safety was compromised by cutting costs will all be taken into account.   Penalties will range from £50 to £10m depending on the seriousness of the offence and the size of the organisation.  Small organisations with a turnover of between £2m and £10m could see fines of up to £1.6m, while micro businesses with a turnover of less than £2m, could be fined up to £450,000.

This is a clear message to all businesses, not just farming, that the authorities expect health and safety to be a key priority.  According to the Sentencing Council “it should not be cheaper to offend than to take the appropriate precautions.”

Simple steps such as assessing risks, planning work, using the correct equipment and making sure everyone is trained on how to work safely can help to reduce the risk of an accident and therefore a prosecution.