Steep Rise In Health And Safety Fines

The largest UK fines for health and safety incidents have increased substantially in the past year, with some of the biggest brands in business having to pay millions of pounds for failing to control serious risks to employees and the public.

There were 19 fines of £1 million or more in 2016 – the largest being £5 million. This compares with three fines of £1 million or more in 2015 and none in 2014.

The rise in fines is a result of the introduction of new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, which came into force on 1 February 2016.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request exploring the impact of the new sentencing guidelines shows that the largest 20 fines imposed for health and safety offences last year cost the businesses involved a total of £38.6 million. In comparison, the largest 20 fines in 2015 and 2014 cost £13.5 million and £4.3 million respectively.

Not every fine in 2016’s largest 20 involved a fatality, with the guidelines deeming that it is enough for a company’s health and safety failings to have caused injury, or put people at substantial risk of injury or death, to warrant a large financial penalty.

The broken leg and dislocated ankle suffered by actor Harrison Ford while filming Star Wars: the Force Awakens resulted in a £1.6 million fine for Foodles Production. The Health and Safety Executive said it could have resulted in more serious injury or even death.

Most fines imposed by courts in 2016 related to health and safety offences which took place before the guidelines were introduced.


Before the introduction of the Sentencing Guidelines, there was little assistance for courts sentencing health and safety offences.  The 2016 guidelines, a 40-plus page document, provide a step-by-step guide for sentencing both companies and individuals for health and safety, and food, offences. This includes taking into account the turnover of the organisation, the level of culpability and the likelihood that the failing could lead to harm and how bad the harm could be.