HSE: Putting my foot in it!

May 2018 ended with me speaking at an AGM for the Drilling and Saw Association about the New Sentencing Guidelines.

Standing at the back of the room waiting to be introduced to speak, the crowd looked a little weary and tired of fellow event speakers, so, as the final speaker, I needed to ensure the key points of my presentation were delivered swiftly.

My opening presentation screen was displayed and the secretary introduced me…

“This is Karl Spencer here to talk about the New Sentencing Councils Guidelines and recent UK fines”

He then handed me the clicker.

So I have a weary crowd, I’m talking about a subject that is never a business priority and mostly perceived as a burden i.e Health and Safety.
I really needed to get the crowd to sit up and listen as the only beneficiaries in the room were the people sat on the chairs in front of me.

Here I go, with a positive and projecting voice, I opened with the question…

“Does anyone in the room fully understand how the new sentencing guidelines effect every business in every industry UK wide?”

An initial cold responsive audience, then a dull “yeh” crept out from the back of the room, singling him out, I asked “so what are big changes then chap”, while looking at his phone, the gentlemen quietly said…

“More legislation and more forms in’t it?”

My hackles rose like an angry dog ready to pounce on a victimless cat…

“Really! It’s directors like you that are most likely the biggest reason fines and jail sentences are the highest they’ve ever been, I suggest you put your phone down and listen, as you couldn’t be more wrong”

Needless to say, I now have the rooms attention.

I continued to explain three of the nine stages the sentencing council take when determining the fine size and how the Offence Range is used to set the starting point of the fine. Further interaction with fellow directors went well, I spoke, they listened and in reality, they began to understand as Directors they knew little about what the sentencing guidelines meant to their businesses!

My voice level returned to normal, I think they warmed to my passion for prevention and protection.

Sentencing Council Guidelines extract image

Sentencing Council Guidelines extract

Midway through my talk, while showing the audience a ‘Sentencing Council Guidelines’ extract (see right) I think the penny dropped, the Offence range is £180k – £20 million and the maximum is an Unlimited Fine, a Managing Director in the audience shouted out…

“If my company can’t pay the fine, what happens”


With glee (as at least I know the audience is listening), I replied…

“As a Managing Director of a company, the responsibility rests with you as fully detailed to you when you registered as a Director at Companies House, also the CPS (Crown Prosecution Services) cannot jail a company, only people”

Many people in the room began to make notes.

Once I finished explaining the sentencing guidelines stages, I moved onto WHY! companies are today receiving enormous fines.

Using a pull up banner of recent fines helped me in explaining to the audience just a few of the larger and more poignant accidents and prosecutions where employees were injured, contractors injured and even HSE successful prosecutions where no actual accident or harm was caused…yes the HSE can and have prosecuted based on Risk, not Harm, and they do not need evidence any actual harm was caused!


Putting my foot in it

I felt a real need to explain to the audience that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) only prosecuted companies who failed to meet legislative standards, this was a very good move as I now explain… unbeknown to me, one of the audience members was an HSE Inspector… so I have just spent 40 minutes with passion and opinion explaining huge fines (£200k for a cut finger) and even Directors jail sentences and how the HSE now prosecute based on what could happen, and there is a senior HSE member in the audience, I gulped!

Thinking on my feet and confident with my knowledge, I asked the inspector a question…

Has anything I have said here today been incorrect?

The HSE inspector responded…

“No everything you have stated is correct, but you haven’t explained the HSE ‘FFIs’ (Fees for Intervention)”

In unison, we both explained these minor but applicable costs.

I finished the session on a 10 minute Q&A, then handed out some British Safety Council magazines including a Sentencing Council article – please get in touch if you require a copy.

So I spent nearly an hour explaining accidents, prosecutions and my powerful opinions, then looking up from handing out the BSC magazines, I see the inspector approaching, I’m thinking, were my opinions and views too strong and he just didn’t want to share his opinion with the audience? I shook the inspector’s hand, then to my joy, the inspector told me how different he thought my talk was, he continued to say that he had never heard the sentencing guidelines explained as well and using real events created a more compelling talk, Phew I thought!


So why have I written this story?

Everyone should understand the HSE are real people and not individual prosecutors holding a legislation folder who arrive at your business to find fault and prosecute individuals and companies, as the original director alluded to. The HSE only prosecute companies who are not complying with the law.

A big thumbs up from the audience for me and my own positive achievement in knowing my passion for creating a better and more protected business for workers and directors are not going unheard.

2 actions you the reader of this article can take away:

  1. Book me to speak at your event- email kspencer@yoursafetypal.com with your event details.
  2. Schedule a demonstration of our product “Safety PAL” (link below) which will show you how your business can be protected from an HSE visit and the sentencing guidelines

There is a 3rd option, do nothing and continue to hope it doesn’t happen to you.


As always, it is great to hear from anyone engaging in my articles, so please get in touch.

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