Do Tougher Penalties Improve Worker Safety?
IOSH Article Implies Higher Fines May Improve Safety
In 2016 the UK implemented The Sentencing Council’s Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety & Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline. The goal of increased fines and criminal prosecutions was to improve worker safety. The Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) wrote an article about the fifth anniversary of the law and implied that it was working.
Evidence of Effectiveness
The first evidence is that the fines handed out by the courts for accidents increased from an average of £54,000 in 2015-16, the year before the guidelines were introduced, to an average of over £150,000 in 2018-19 (although the fines fell to an average of £110,000 in 2019-20).
What about enforcement notices without court action? They fell. In 2019-2020 there were just 7,075 notices without court action – the lowest number since 2007-2008.
What about fatalities? In 2015-2016 there were 147. In 2018-2019 there were 149. In 2019-2020 there were only 111. However, the lower number in 2019-2020 was probably due to the COVID 19 lockdowns. (If we had a statistic of fatalities per hour actually worked, we would have a better idea about this.)
The IOSH Newsletter article quotes Ruth Wilkinson, Head of Health and Safety at IOSH, as saying:
“The average fine amount rose sharply in the first few years after the guidelines were introduced, substantially for larger organisations. We believe this, coupled with the reputational impact and worker, public and supply chain requirements for safer working practices and responsible employers, has had a significant impact in persuading businesses to invest further in looking after their workers.
“While you cannot put a value on human life, the level of fines now being handed out demonstrate and recognise society’s disapproval of serious corporate failures that lead to injury, illness and death. It reflects a desire to deter others from making the same errors and takes significant steps forward in aligning penalties for these offences with other regulatory breaches in the UK.
“We believe a strong regulatory framework, enforced properly, is persuasive in convincing businesses to invest in health and safety. However, avoiding a large fine shouldn’t be the motivation businesses require to do so. Responsible employers put looking after their staff right at the top of their priority list. This in turn has significant benefits, including a hugely reduced incident and absence rate and thus more motivated and engaged staff, leading to business benefits such as greater productivity.”
What Do You Think?
Has the increased emphasis on large fines and criminal prosecutions improved safety in the UK? Did it cause increased investment in safety improvement? Does the evidence support an emphasis on increased fines and prosecutions?
Leave your comments below with your opinions.
What Can You Do to Improve Safety?
At System Improvements, we don’t believe that increasing fines is the best way to improve health and safety. Why? Because we see little evidence that this approach works. (If you have evidence, please let me know in the comments below.)
Instead, we see quite a bit of evidence that the application of advanced root cause analysis is effective in improving safety.
Review the proof in these success stories:
- Advanced Root Cause Analysis Helps Take Lost Time Rate to Zero
- Using TapRooT® to Improve Investigations, Stop Fault Finding, Reduce Injuries, & Cut Workers’ Compensation Costs
- Improving Incident Investigations and Root Cause Analyses, and Reducing Incident Rates at Fernald
- Using TapRooT® to Reduce the Severity of Ergonomic Illnesses/Injuries & Cut Workers Comp Costs
- Improving Investigations by Focusing on Fixable Causes Rather Than Blame
- Cutting the Incident Rate and Workers’ Compensation Costs with Advanced Root Cause Analysis
All of the improvements outlined above were accomplished without increased fines. Nobody went to jail. Instead, they learned to apply TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis to improve safety and reduce workers’ comp costs.
Would your management be more likely to tackle improving your root cause analysis to improve safety, reduce injuries, save on workers’ comp costs, and avoid fatalities, OR would they be more likely to be motivated by the threat of fines and jail time if they have a major accident?
Again, let me know what you think would work better for your management in the comments section below.
And if you would like to discuss implementing advanced root cause analysis, getting a “Management Briefing” and developing a “Roadmap for Success,” and, perhaps, even scheduling advanced root cause analysis training, call us at 865-539-2139 or CLICK HERE to contact one of our implementation experts.