Under the strong new UK laws, a company was given a £2.6 million penalty earlier this year after a worker was killed in their building site. However, if that worker died in Australia, the penalty may just be $170,000.
Heavier fines for more workplace safety
The UK government strongly believes that having bigger health and safety fines can decrease injuries and fatalities. There has been a new penalty system introduced in the UK just this February. The law describes that the safety and health penalty depends entirely on a company’s turnover. For a company that has more than £50 million in turnover, the fine can go as much as £10 million. Balfour Betty which is an international infrastructure company in the UK was given a £3.5 million fine.
Aside from the fines, the negligent companies’ directors can be subjected to custodial sentences or imprisonment. Helen Devery from BLM said that around thirty-eight percent of those health and safety fines given this year were from companies in the construction industry. UK’s construction companies paid almost £8 million ever since the new sentencing guidelines were implemented. For the UK construction industry, this law is a game changer and one that sets a new standard regarding construction safety and health.
The difference in the penalty systems of UK and Australia
Yearly in Australia, there are over 60,000 people injured at work and more than 190 people end up dead. The construction ranks third as the nation’s top killer. In Australia, the construction’s fatal injury rate is higher at 1.5 times than the UK’s. In addition, the construction’s death rate is higher at 3.5 times. Australia is not safer than the UK, however the laws protecting workers are weaker than UK’s especially since UK just recently included much stronger fines.
Even though it is still too early to tell whether bigger fines or imprisonment can lessen workplace injuries and fatalities, the idea of connecting fines to a company’s turnover is worth considering especially by the Australian government. All companies, regardless of industry, should re-assess their workplace rules with help from health & safety consultants. As a result, a company is able to prevent workplace injuries and deaths.