On our advice line, we’ve spoken to many small businesses who really care about their health and safety obligations.

As you may be aware, a year ago the Sentencing Council published a new Definitive Guideline for health and safety offences. It was big news at the time, but practitioners couldn’t be certain of the impact it would have. A year on, and we are reading many reports about the significant increase in fines over the past year – though as the attached article shows, the level of fines had already been increasing over the previous few years. According to this article, research found that the average health and safety fine during 2016 was £115,440 – you may also wish to read the original research by Arinite Health and Safety, which is available here.

Of course money should not be the only motivator for caring about health and safety. But numerical analysis is one way to examine the issue. And according to Arinite, a health and safety consultancy, and according to research by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), for small and medium sized businesses spending just £40,000 each year on health and safety compliance should suffice to avoid breaches of the legislation. That’s considerably less than the average health and safety fine.

For most businesses, health and safety law is quite simple. As far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the health and safety of your employees and avoid exposing others to health and safety risks. And this does entail excessive formalities – the most important thing, normally, is to conduct a risk assessment and have a health and safety policy. That will force you to put your mind to reducing risks. Of course there are a few other duties, but normally the nuanced aspect is considering the detail of your workplace and thinking carefully about how to reduce risk.

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