Health and safety fines handed down to the construction industry have nearly doubled in a year, new research has shown.
According to a report by Clyde & Co, the value of fines the Health and Safety Executive collected in the year to 31 January 2017 increased to £12.96m, compared with £7.09m for the same period a year earlier.
This represented an 83 per cent rise in the fines collected by the HSE by the industry since new sentencing guidelines were introduced in February 2016.
These guidelines toughened the penalties for health and safety offences involving corporate manslaughter offences.
The very worst cases could see contractors fined more than £20m – potentially rising even higher for the largest companies.
The construction industry paid 21 per cent of the total amount of fines collected by the HSE for the year to 31 January 2017.
Balfour Beatty paid the largest single sum during this period when it was fined £2.6m after a worker died on site when a trench he was working in collapsed on him.
H&S fines in-depth: How big an impact is the new sentencing regime having?
James Sim, from Barry in south Wales, was working for a subcontractor on behalf of Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions when he was killed in April 2010. According to the HSE the 2.4 m-deep collapsed trench had been dug without any shoring.
Clyde & Co head of compliance and strategic support for security, health and environment Rhian Greaves said the new sentence guidelines were “biting hard”.
“The floodgates are beginning to open and the new guideline is clearly having an impact,” she said. “We have seen more fines exceeding £1m this year than in the previous 15 years combined.”
She added: “Companies should be concerned that fines are now routinely hitting the £1m mark, even in apparently less serious cases, meaning that all breaches of health and safety law are now a serious threat to a company’s bottom line.”
Last week, BFK – a joint venture of Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman and Kier Infrastructure – was fined more than £1m over three incidents that took place during the construction of the Crossrail tunnels, including one which led to the death of Slovakian worker Renè Tkáčik in 2014.
The JV was charged with three offences including: the death of Mr Tkáčik on 7 March 2014; severe injuries sustained by Terrence Hughes on 16 January 2015; and injuries suffered by Alex Vizitiu on 22 January 2015.
BFK pleaded guilty to the charges at a separate hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ court the week before.