The average fine for a health and safety breach fell by 21 per cent in
2002-2003 to £11,141 – reversing an increase of 39 per cent the year before.
In England, the average fines in cases involving workplace fatalities also
fell by 29 per cent over the past year. Wales was the only region in the UK
where penalties actually rose.
The number of enforcement notices issued by the Health and Safety Executive
(HSE) rose by a fifth in 2002-2003, and greatly increased in the agriculture
and construction industries – two of the HSE’s priority sectors.
However, the director general of the HSE, Timothy Walker, has publicly
criticised the low fine levels imposed by courts for breaches of health and
safety regulations. He said fines were the "foremost deterrent" against
safety negligence. But he said it was "incomprehensible" that fines
imposed on large companies for health and safety breaches were so tiny when
compared with the fines they receive for breaking financial services rules.
"Breaches in health and safety can, and do, result in loss of limbs,
livelihoods and lives," said Walker.