Over the last decade we have seen many negative factors affecting the sport, leisure and events sectors. Going back to 2007-08 we entered into a period of austerity, which has brought about reductions in local government funding to the tune of £16bn and it has recently been reported local authorities have a funding gap just short of £6bn.
We are now faced with the uncertainty of Brexit and the challenges this brings to UK business, and especially those businesses like ours at RDHS Limited, who trade internationally as well.
If the challenges of austerity and Brexit are not enough, the move into the digital era can bring further challenges on business. For example, ‘Making Tax Digital’ has meant businesses have needed to upgrade internal accounting systems at significant cost, with no support from the government to do so.
I’m all in favour of progress and the use of technology to improve efficiencies, but increased costs being forced onto small businesses, just makes running a business much harder.
With all of this in mind, we are now seeing the effects of austerity, in particular, the local authority funding gap at the point of service delivery. Funding streams for charitable trusts is being cut more and more, the impact of this eventually filters through to their suppliers.
You may wonder why I have decided to raise this as a discussion point, as it is obvious funding cuts will make its way eventually down the supply chain. What I see though is slightly different, given that our work over the last 15 years at RDHS has been to inspire new standards of health and safety across our sector. I see funding cuts are now directly affecting the safety of the workforce, through management decisions.
We have always worked hard with Board of Directors and Senior Management Teams, to encourage them to integrate safety into their decision making, looking at health and safety as an investment rather than a cost. The financial impact of getting health and safety right, is a much more cost-effective way to manage than the cost of getting it wrong.
So, it is very hard to understand, when you see first hand businesses putting cost savings first over health and safety. An example recently has been a client having their primary objective of cutting cost and changing their safety consultants. Based on a small cost saving in service, and I mean a few hundred pounds, all in the same year that the health and safety support they received, resulted in a direct reduction in their insurance premiums.
Forgive me for saying this, but I find this very short-sighted and the decision unravels all the good work undertaken in the preceding years. For what, a few hundred pounds!
Directors and Senior Management teams should be reminded of the new Sentencing Guidelines, which came into force in November 2018, which specifies how offenders convicted of manslaughter. This may appear to be scaremongering, but it is fact!
- The Guidelines deal with serious and difficult cases, where there has been a workplace fatality caused by a negligent employer
- In some gross negligence cases, sentences will increase; where an employer’s long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by cost-cutting, has led to someone being killed!
The current sentencing is lower in the context of overall sentence levels for manslaughter than for other types. Anyone convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence could face a prison sentence of up to 18 years, not to be shirked at!
For typical workplace cases of gross negligence manslaughter, the starting point sentence will be 4 years imprisonment, with a range of 3 to 7 years depending on other factors. Where there has been ‘a blatant disregard for a very high risk of death’ and / or a motivation to avoid costs, then the starting point would be eight years or even 12 years, with a range up to 18 years.
I’ll leave you all with those thoughts! I would urge all Senior Teams and Directors to seriously think about their decision making, when it comes to linking costs with health and safety.
These are purely my views alone, which some will agree with others not. If you do have any views on this please do share these. If you have reached this point in my post, thanks for reading.