No Hiding Place For Businesses Which Ignore Health and Safety
A huge rise in the number of health and safety court cases in Scotland could be a sign of things to come, warned a leading litigation expert
The Health and Safety Statistics annual report issued today (Tue 27 Oct) reveals that in 2014-15 the Procurator Fiscal prosecuted 72 cases in Scottish courts, a 49% rise on the previous year and secured a 97% successful conviction rate.
Laura Cameron, Head of Litigation at Pinsent Masons, said the statistics showed there would be no hiding place for companies that fall foul of health and safety legislation.
She said: “The rise in prosecutions brought in Scotland is remarkable and demonstrates the commitment of the Crown Office to tackling such crime.
“Health and safety is clearly a priority for the authorities and a further increase over the next year in the number of cases being prosecuted would not be unexpected. Board rooms across the country should be taking note, and if they are not already doing so, should be pushing health and safety issues to the top of their agenda.”
The introduction of the Sentencing Guidelines in England and Wales will almost certainly have an impact in Scotland, said Cameron.
“These are expected in February 2016 and they are set to increase penalties to a maximum of £20 million for Corporate Manslaughter Cases. Organisations should ignore health and safety at their peril.”
In the past year, notable health and safety cases dealt with include the imprisonment of skipper Guthrie Melville after the death of diver James Irvine in Largo Bay, a £30,000 fine handed to auction firm Lawrie and Symington over the death of an employee, and a £200,000 fine against SW Global Resourcing after a worker fell to his death from a cherry-picker.
Ms Cameron added: “As yet there has been no corporate homicide case brought in Scotland but the Crown Office will be casting a sharp eye over incidents which match the criteria for a potential prosecution. Now more than ever businesses have to ensure their regulatory and compliance procedures are all they should be and meet the highest of standards.”
Rosie Garrigan, a consultant at online compliance business Cerico, added: “
“The first step in building a compliance culture which minimises the risk of health and safety breaches is having the right policies and procedures in place.
“Technology has a huge role to play in that as it helps give management visibility over workforce engagement with company policies and we are increasingly seeing many corporates turn to technology to help with embedding compliance in to daily business life.”