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Construction firms pay nearly £8m in H&S fines since February

Construction companies have paid almost £8m in health and safety fines since new sentencing guidelines came into force earlier this year.

Research by law firm BLM found that out of 101 health and safety fines issued, 38 per cent affected those in the construction sector.

Large businesses with turnovers in excess of £50m can now face fines of up to £10m for the most serious health and safety offences, while corporate manslaughter fines could reach up to £20m.

In May, Balfour Beatty was fined £2.6m over the death of a worker on an offshore windfarm in Lancashire after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety Act.

The research showed the three highest fines in the construction sector totalled £5.6m, all of which involved fatalities of either staff or customers.

Directors of two construction companies were also given custodial sentences. One was given six years after being found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter, the other was sentenced to six months after one of his employees was killed on site.

Legal costs were also substantial, with the biggest three fines resulting in almost £185,000 in prosecution costs for the companies involved.

Altogether, the prosecution costs associated with fines to UK construction companies since February exceeded £530,000.

New guidelines were imposed in February 2016 for health and safety, food hygiene and corporate manslaughter offences.

BLM partner and head of SHE practice Helen Devery said: “These new guidelines have introduced fines that are proportional to the size of the company, meaning that both small and large businesses will feel the same impact.

“It is expected that fines will remain high for larger firms that are charged with serious offences, so businesses need to work harder than ever to avoid incidents and the subsequent negative impact on their people, productivity and profits.”

The number of construction deaths in 2015/16 increased to 43 people between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016, up from 35 the year before, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

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