The HSE has released its annual report for the year 2016/17 giving details of enforcement activities for the year.

This is also the first complete year for statistics following the successful implementation of the new Sentencing Guidelines for Health & Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety & Hygiene Offences, which came into full effect on 1 February 2016.

The HSE annual report can be accessed at: www.hse.gov.uk/statistics.

2016/17 marked a noticeable increase in fines from previous years with a massive £69.9 million in fines, compared to £38.8 million the previous year. This represents a rise of approximately 80%.

Key findings of the HSE annual report include:

  1. 554 cases were prosecuted in England, Wales and Scotland which secured a conviction in 2016/17.
  2. In 2016/17 the single largest fine secured on successful prosecution was £5 million against Merlin Entertainments following the Smiler incident in 2015;
  3. The HSE issued a total of 11,913 enforcement notices in 2016/17, a slight rise on the previous year following several years of what appeared to be a downward trend. The report does not provide any breakdown of the figure, so we are unable to establish the number of prohibition notices or improvement notices and how many notices of contravention under the fees for intervention scheme were issued; and
  4. 137 fatal injuries were reported to the HSE under RIDDOR during 2016/17, however the report notes the UK consistently has one of the lowest standardised rates of fatal injury across the EU.

The HSE also examined a number of different industries across the UK. Findings illustrate that the construction, transport, agricultural and manufacturing sectors all remain the high risk areas from a health & safety perspective, collectively having the largest risk of fatal injuries to workers.

In 2016/17 only 120 cases accounted for almost half the total fines (£30.7 million of the £69.9 million). This trend, where a quarter of convictions accounted for almost half the total fines revenue, demonstrates that bigger organisations are being fined greater sums than in the past whilst smaller organisations are not seeing as great an increase. This is good news for SMEs but bad news for big businesses.

It is important to note that on conviction, when determining the fine, the Court will consider the offending duty holders’ turnover in addition to factors of culpability and risk of harm to work out the total appropriate fine range on the sentencing table.

In our experience the HSE is not reticent in trying to persuade the Court to push culpability and harm factors up the sentencing table in order to generate bigger fines.