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Balfour Beatty sets aside £25m for OSH penalties

Infrastructure group Balfour Beatty has set aside up to £25m for safety and health fines in light of the new sentencing guidelines, Construction Enquirer has reported.

Balfour Beatty sets aside £25m for OSH penalties
Image credit: ©Hong Li

The sentencing guidelines have elevated penalties for OSH regulatory breaches and corporate manslaughter offences. Since their introduction on 1 February this year, there have been as many £1m-plus penalties as there were in the previous 20 years.  

In May, one of the group’s divisions, Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions, was fined £2.6m after an unshored trench collapsed on a worker, fatally crushing him. 

In its results for the half-year ended 1 July, Balfour Beatty said of the penalty: “The fine was judged on the basis of the new sentencing guidelines published by the Department of Justice and demonstrates the increasingly heavy financial consequences for failures to meet the necessary safety and environmental standards.”  

The half-year accounts showed that pre-tax losses from non-underlying items were £28m. This included £25m, which “largely relates to a reassessment of potential liabilities on historical health and safety breaches following new sentencing guidelines introduced earlier this year”, the company said. 

In January, before the guidelines’ introduction, Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering was fined £1m for the death of a worker who was struck in the head by a crane. 

Balfour Beatty, which had a previous goal of achieving zero harm to its workers by 2012, said it remains committed to the target.

In the first IOSH Magazine webinar two leading safety lawyers - Dr Simon Joyston-Bechal, director of Turnstone Law, and Michael Appleby of Bivonas Law - discussed the implications of the new court guidelines that have boosted OSH fines. The sentencing guidelines webinar is available to view at bit.ly/2bmYeZb

Keeley Downey is assistant editor of IOSH Magazine

Comments

Shows Policy and Arrangements are failing then and processes to redress not holistically applied.

Can't be doing that..... its called common sense ;)

Wouldn't it be better to invest £25 million in better training, supervision, equipment, etc. to prevent serious incidents rather than hand it over to the Chancellor following yet another death at work?

Large fines for breaches of safety and health are welcomed and not before time. However It is my suggestion that the system needs to be encourage more to get to the root cause of these fatalities. Balfour Beatty are a huge organisation and they have safety officers all over the place yet for reasons only known to them they can't reach the zero tolerance figure. It is my opinion that they never will unless they use the money they cash they might have to pay out in fines to manage safety and health on the coal face. 'Just a thought'

The guidelines are from the Sentencing Council not the Department for Justice (which does not exist, though there is a Ministry of Justice). See: https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/publications/item/health-and-safety...

If companies of this size are happy to slice £25m off their profits just to meet the cost of annual penalties, it's probably a good indicator that they're saving a huge amount more by accepting the penalties.

A full financial audit of the benefits of them doing this should be undertaken, as I suspect a more realistic fine would be in the £1BN range.

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