Monday, March 2, 2015

Road Haulage and Other Freight Carriers Warned of New Health and Safety Implications

Individuals and Logistics Companies to Receive More Stringent Sentences
Shipping News Feature

UK – In one of its recent ‘Road Transport and Logistics Briefings’, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has pointed out a change in the sentencing guidelines for Health and Safety offences which may in the future mean serious repercussions for those involved in the freight sector. The guidelines were published by the Sentencing Council last November to a chorus of general approval, anyone convicted of causing serious injury or death through poor management is normally deemed to deserve a suitably strict sentence. Now however the new guidelines allow individuals, not simply organisations, to be penalised not only for anyone contravening any health and safety regulations, but judged to having secondary liability for certain offences, or those committed with consent, connivance, or neglect.

The implications for transport operators could be extremely serious, the RHA cites examples such as accidents incurred whilst loading or unloading a vehicle or whilst changing a wheel, things often beyond the direct supervision of senior management whose job it is to ensure the proper protocols are in place and all employees fully trained.

The new guidelines will see a significant rise in the level of fines, again the RHA points out that one of its members, a medium sized company, received a fine last year of £100,000 after the unfortunate death for which it was judged in part responsible for. Under the new rules the starting point of a fine, discounting mitigating factors, would stand at around £635,000.

With the changes the RHA predicts it will be SMEs which come off worst despite the original intent of the amendments to punish larger organisations with poor health and safety records. The new regulations will greatly increase the chances of individuals deemed culpable receiving a prison sentence whilst the guideline implements a new Band F fine for the most serious offences warranting a fine, with the starting point 600% of relevant weekly income.

As with all matters relevant to a transport company holding an Operator’s Licence the responsibility for reporting any such incident lies with the Transport Manager, not left to the Traffic Commissioners to discover for themselves. A serious health and safety breach may well impact upon the operator’s fitness to hold a licence as this may qualify as a 'serious criminal offence' as set out in the Statutory Guidance.