In UK agriculture, one worker dies every week on average according to the HSE. Farm work can present a myriad of risks; minor, serious and fatal in a normal day. New legislation aims to curve that statistic as new tough penalties for breaches could encourage a safer environment.
A Dangerous Profession
Last month we looked at which industry in the UK was the most dangerous from a personal injury perspective. We determined that due to the heavy machinery and tools used, matched with the working environment, that farming is indeed Britain’s most dangerous workplace.
Agricultural work on average sees more serious injuries each year than construction and manufacturing. This is a result of tasks involving a variety of machinery with the ability to cut, shred and maim individuals coming into contact with them. It is also unfortunately an “accepted” part of the farming industry that injury and death do occur at regular intervals during any calendar year.
February 2017 will see the introduction of new penalties that heavily affect farming, particularly larger farms with numerous employees. From February, corporate manslaughter and breaching other health and safety offences will result in heavy fines or imprisonment.
According to the official publication released by the HSE, offences can see fines scaling from £50 all the way up to £10 million being handed out, depending on how many people were hurt, what the incident involved and how much damage was done. Sincere Law Partner Lucie Illingworth spoke on the tougher stance on agricultural health and safety:
“It isn’t permissible for agricultural bosses to “accept” that serious injury and death is just a part of working farms. Those that add to the statistics are humans with families. They deserve protection. The legislation should help stimulate greater protection and eliminate that notion. Employee safety is above all else in any industry”
Challenge the Norms
Sincere Law’s solicitors have dealt previously with both the serious injury of agricultural workers and the claiming of compensation following fatalities on behalf of their families. Both situations require immense work and empathy for those involved. It can be a distressing time for all involved, not just the person involved in the incident.
As a law firm that supports the victims of serious injury with their recovery, we welcome any legislative change as an effort to clamp down on negligent procedures employers may have risked assigning employees to in the past. From witnessing the effects of serious injury on agricultural workers first hand, we would like to see the frequency of these impactful injuries fall dramatically.
Companies guilty of committing corporate manslaughter are set to face tougher fines in an attempt to make the workplace a much safer and better regulated environment.
The Cost of Corporate Manslaughter
The Sentencing Council revealed recently that judges are being advised to impose heavier fines (in relation to size) on organisations guilty of committing corporate manslaughter.
Previous legislation, the “Corporate Manslaughter & Homicide Act 2007” doesn’t establish an upper limit to penalties. The new guidelines, however, push to take a very tough stance on guilty parties; suggesting companies with £50 million or more turnover should be fined £20 million and up to £10 million for fatal Health & Safety offences.
The 2007 act establishes what duty of care an employer owes to its employees. Legally every employee has the right to expect their employer to have taken all necessary steps and followed all necessary processes to ensure their safety. This counts not only for higher risk industries, like construction and manufacturing, but to any working environment.
What Is Corporate Manslaughter?
The act of failing to keep an employee safe, resulting in an accident at work, causing a fatality is the literal definition of corporate manslaughter. When one employee is instructed by another in a higher position to carry out a task that results in a fatality, the company is held responsible if that person’s instructions are in a working capacity. All that is required is that the grossly negligent party is in control of the company affairs relating to the incident; for example a foreman on a construction site, is the company representative portioning out tasks to the other employees.
Unfortunately, cases of corporate manslaughter have increased in recent years, including a spike of 40% between 2012 and 2013. Cases can take years to resolve but usually receive stringent fines as a harsh warning to ensure the same incidents are never repeated. This year saw the 11th prosecution for Corporate Manslaughter since the introduction of the legislation.
One recycling company convicted of corporate manslaughter
What The Changes Mean?
What do the new guidelines mean for companies and employees? Coming into force on the 1st February 2016, the new guidelines aim to serve as a larger deterrent than previously, to companies allowing Health & Safety processes to be neglected during their day to day activity.
Given the recent upturn in convictions for corporate manslaughter, the new fines will hopefully go some way to bringing about a downturn, ensuring companies take as much care and attention to employee wellbeing as is expected.
A matrix of costs has been developed to set a starting point based on the size of the company committing the offence. Starting points are:
Micro – Turnover less than £2 million
Small – Between £2 million & £10 million turnover
Medium – Between £10 million & £50 million turnover
Large – Turnover greater than £50 million
The costs provided by the matrix are not exhaustive of company size and not definitive totals, as companies with much larger turnovers than £50 million will require individual consideration. The hope for employees and the industry is that the fines will make enough of a financial impact that corporate manslaughter will become a thing of the past.
Does This Affect Fatal Injury Claims?
For families of anybody affected by corporate manslaughter, the injury claims process hasn’t been affected negatively. The new guidelines are designed to be separate from private litigation and are a more official form of punishment alongside what a family can claim for the loss of their relative due to negligence.
Fatal injury claims as a result of an accident at work will remain the same taking into account what a grieving family is owed as a result of a fatality. Sincere Law have been involved in cases involving fatalities at work in the past that have also seen hearings regarding corporate manslaughter. Sincere Law Catastrophic Injury Partner Chris Walker agrees that the new fines are a good way of reducing the amount of fatal injuries at work, stating “while the claims process isn’t affected by the guidelines, it is a step in the right direction to attempt to reduce and eradicate the amount of fatalities coming from corporate negligence. Given the extreme emotional pressure it puts on the immediate family of the deceased (which Sincere Law has experienced first-hand in the past) we welcome any legislative changes that make the workplace a safer environment.”
Making a Fatal Injury Claim
Should one of your family or friends suffer a fatal injury at work or otherwise as the result of a negligent action by another party, we would encourage you to claim as an injury claim is one of the best ways to ensure the guilty party comes to justice. We understand a fatal injury claim is a very delicate process, and we advise you take as much time as you need before starting a claim (bearing in mind the 2 year limit to making a claim following the incident).
Making a claim is a very simple process which we can guide you through as well as giving you the opportunity to see specialists if required. We have dedicated, experienced Solicitors able to explain any aspect of a case whenever required. If you do want to get in contact about a fatal injury claim (or any catastrophic injury) you can contact us every day from 8am to 9pm on 0800 092 2896 or use our contact page here. One of our friendly operatives will be waiting to give you honest, impartial advice.
We sincerely hope the new guidelines will reduce corporate manslaughter cases to zero. Only time will tell, but the new tough stance is the first step in fully securing those in a hazardous workplace.