The final part of this series on the implications of the new guidelines on health and safety sentencing looks at how to prepare your business for the legislation, and what mitigating circumstances will be taken into account if you fail to do so.
The period between now and next February should be used to undertake an audit review of existing health and safety and procedures and practices.
As a starter. you will need to review your health and safety handbook. Are your policies and procedures compliant with the current law and best practice? Are they proportionate, widely understood and adhered to by all?
Next, evaluate whether your policies allow you to identify, manage and control risks within your business. You need to assess how compliant you actually are across your business – not just whether your management and health and safety policies take the rules into account but how effectively they are put into place. Do they deliver the engagement of your entire workforce in the drive to ensure a safe, healthy and legally compliant working environment? Don’t forget, you need to be able to provide evidence to support this.
You may also wish to review your litigation strategy in the unfortunate event that you find yourself subject to prosecution.
Whether a business or individual is question, mitigating circumstances will still continue to be taken into account. There are a range of aggravating and mitigating factors that could be taken into account. They will include the ability of the business to improve health and safety conditions, early cooperation and an early guilty plea.
The base penalty will be a measurement of the ‘culpability’ and the ‘harm’ aligned to the seriousness of the offence. Then the actual size and resources of the defendant business will be looked at, and any mitigating circumstances put forward will be taken into account.
In terms of food hygiene offences, such as placing unsafe food on the market, there has been a reduction in the mitigating factors that will be taken into account. Previously, a business who fell just short of establishing a due diligence defence (based on evidence of its systems and procedures) could use this. It will now no longer be considered as a mitigating factor.
This is another reason to make sure you have taken stock of your current practices and policies before the new legislation comes into effect.
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