The HSE has recently published interesting statistics about the construction sector:

  • £97billion net contributor to the UK economy (6% overall);
  • Responsible for 25% of all UK fatal accidents at work in the period March 2011 to 2016;
  • 7% of the construction workforce believe work is causing or exacerbating illnesses (2015 / 2016).
  • HSE prosecution costs recovered increased by £3.6m (March 2015 – 2016).

The above illustrate the importance of the construction sector to the UK’s economy and how potentially dangerous working in this sector can be.

The HSE has noticeably stepped up prosecutions against individuals and corporate entities over the past five years as part of its strategy to give real teeth to its enforcement role.  The harsh reality is that construction work demonstrably killed, injured and harmed people on a regular basis in the past due to its inherent risks. The risks are better managed now, but the industry remains an easy target for the HSE.

The HSE’s strict enforcement policy is seen as a necessary part of its strategy to protect people working in the construction industry.  The HSE will prosecute employers if it is in the public interest if:

  • a death occurred as a result of a breach of legislation
  • the gravity of offence warrants it
  • there has been a reckless disregard for health and safety requirements or;
  • if there are repeated breaches giving rise to significant risk.

We have seen evidence that the HSE will prosecute individuals if they are considered at fault.  This includes project managers, health and safety managers, external consultants, site managers, contractors, managers and directors.  The key feature in prosecutions of individuals is whether their acts or omissions were integral to the accident.  Prosecutions against individuals are on the increase and we are seeing a different approach by the HSE (and by the Police in fatal accident cases) to their investigations from the outset.  There is now almost a presumption that an individual might be at fault and the investigations are leaving no stone unturned and no decision or behaviour uninvestigated.  A director or officer can be guilty of breaching HSE legislation if they consented, neglected or connived in the commission of an offence by the corporate entity.

In 2015-2016 11,403 enforcement notices were issued (lots of fees for intervention generated there of course) and 660 cases were prosecuted in England, Wales and Scotland resulting in convictions and £38.3 million generated in fines.

Underpinning these statistics are the new Sentencing Guidelines which set out a matrix for  sentencing health and safety offences which came into force in 2015.  Sentencing under these new guidelines has resulted in fines which now run into the £millions for businesses and immediate prison sentences for individuals.

The team at Gateley Plc specialises in navigating the current legal landscape and are highly experienced in handling complex and high profile prosecutions.

For further information contact Kate Oliver, regulatory associate at Gateley Plc: or call 0121 234 0177.

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This blog is intended only as a synopsis of certain recent developments. If any matter referred to in this blog is sought to be relied upon, further advice should be obtained.