A legal change that has serious implications for all companies who run fleets.
On 1st February 2016 the Sentencing Council introduced new guidelines that every fleet operator in the UK needs to be aware of.
The Definitive Guideline for Sentencing of Health and Safety, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences continues the recent trend of significant increases in the level of fines being imposed by the courts. The new guidelines are extensive, but the primary intention is to ensure a transparent, consistent approach in the sentencing of these types of offence. Perhaps the most striking feature of the guidelines is that fines are now intrinsically linked to the defendant company’s turnover, with upper limits of hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions of pounds.
Companies are urged to familiarise themselves with the new guidelines and their implications, and you’ll find a link to a full explanation later in this article.
But in very simple terms:
- The courts now have increased powers of determining culpability for breaches of health and safety law.
- Criteria for establishing the scale of negligence and/or fault is stricter and more defined.
- The upper limits of financial penalties have increased dramatically.
- The scale of fines imposed is directly proportionate to turnover; determined by HSE analysis of the company’s accounts.
- Sentences imposed upon convicted parties are more severe and the likelihood of custodial sentences for directors is far greater.
Make no mistake. This really does apply to you and your company. All company owners, directors and senior managers of businesses running fleets are impacted by these new guidelines.
The new guidelines cite the following as one of the reasons a company may have a high level of culpability for an offence:
“Failing to put in place measures that are recognised standards in the industry”.
This is particularly worrying for any company who lacks a robust fleet management system, or is relying on spreadsheets or paper-based systems to handle their fleet tasks. Take advisory repairs, for example. The growing trend towards extended manufacturer service intervals means that between-service advisory repairs are almost a given. The instant an advisory repair is logged by a garage, the HSE would define it as being “on notice”, and the company is obligated to act. Failure to do so puts them at risk of high culpability, should an incident occur. What’s more, where a company is seen to place ‘profit before safety’ - for example, favouring an inefficient manual system over a fully-functional software solution for reasons of cost – this further increases the severity of the outcome.
It’s more important than ever that fleet managers take time to review their existing systems and ensure they have robust measures in place for dealing with recommendations and alerts generated via their fleet management system. It is also vital that safety information is shared in such a way to improve performance so that accidents can be avoided.
View the sentencing council website here: https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk
Download a shortened link for the full advisory document here: http://tinyurl.com/are-you-legal