Dave Whittle, CEO at Positive Response, discusses the implications of the new health and safety guidelines from the Sentencing Council in his first blog for Infologue.com. Dave writes: “On 1st February 2016, new health and safety guidelines (Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences), published by the Sentencing Council (an independent, non-departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice whose primary role is to issue guidelines on sentencing) came into effect and concerns are already being raised over the low level of awareness of the changes. Being aware of the new guidelines, and of the related liabilities, is essential for businesses of every size in every sector. Not only does it influence good governance and health and safety compliance, it creates an opportunity to bring staff security to the top of the organisation’s agenda.
“One of the key changes is the inclusion of targeting vulnerable victims as an aggravating feature. It is the responsibility of businesses, under the Duty of Care, to identify all potential hazards, and take the necessary steps to prevent them. And this includes the risk of violence at work, where any employee is at risk from verbal abuse, physical threat, or crime-related injury. The Health and Safety Executive defines work related violence as: ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.’ The new health and safety guidelines reinforce the need to manage and mitigate the workplace-related risk to employees. If businesses do not wish to face huge financial penalties and a damaged reputation, staff safety must be taken seriously. This must include planning, training, monitoring and review, with the use of technology, such as alarms and specialist security equipment, to provide added protection. In threatening situations, the ability to covertly raise an alarm to allow a third party to take control of the situation, by listening and interacting through a two-way communication system, provides staff with enhanced security and increases well-being.
“Under the new guidelines, fines will be calculated based on level of harm, culpability, and the organisation’s turnover. This means that larger organisations could face fines of up to £10 million for the most serious offences. Medium sized organisations could see fines of up to £4 million, up to £1.6 million for small organisations, and £450,000 for micro-businesses. The courts will take wider aggravating and mitigating factors into consideration, such as an organisation’s past convictions, compromised safety due to cost cutting, self reporting of the incident, and acceptance of responsibility.
“However, it is not legal implications alone that focus the need for a high level of staff security. Keeping staff safe and protected gives them peace of mind and improves staff morale and staff retention. Safer and more efficient working practices do not need to be costly or time-consuming. In fact, in the long-run they can save money and have a positive effect on the organisation’s bottom-line. Incidents of front-line staff suffering abuse, pain, anxiety and stress create a poor image for the organisation. It can make staff recruitment and retention difficult and can result in higher insurance premiums.
“The new health and safety sentencing guidelines should be welcomed and, it is hoped, will make a real impact on reducing threatening behaviour and violence against staff in an area where they should feel secure and protected – their workplace”.
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