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Health and safety penalties for non compliance in UK farming

Nobody wants a person to get seriously injured or killed on their farm. Unfortunately, it does happen and when an inspector from HSE comes to your farm to investigate, it’s likely there will be penalties to follow for non-compliance.

There are a number of penalties which could be given to you, depending on the incident and the result, i.e. death or serious injury. It is important to understand that a breach of health and safety duties is seen as a criminal offence. If convicted, you will have a criminal record in addition to any sentence or penalty issued.

Prosecution – with a conviction rate of 95%, you really don’t want to have charges laid against you. Fines handed down by the courts are unlimited – the average fine in 2019/2020 was £110,000 with some fines exceeding £1M. Then add the possibility of prison time up to 2 years, and this is not a nice picture. While only 8% of convictions resulted in immediate custody, a further 25% involved either a suspended sentence or community sentence.

Enforcement notices – inspectors will issue Prohibition and/or Improvement Notices if they spot something dangerous which has, or could cause serious injury or a fatality.

7,075 notices were issued by HSE last year alone in the UK. Of these, 1,948 were Immediate Prohibition notices.

A Prohibition Notice can be issued if the inspector is of the opinion an activity carried on involves or will involve a risk of serious personal injury. If issued, it means you must rectify the matter before continuing with the activity. Imagine a Prohibition Notice on your most critical piece of machinery, right when you need to use it most. This could be disastrous for your farm, and for you.

Improvement Notices are issued when an inspector is of the opinion there is or could be a repeated contravention of the laws. If you are issued with an Improvement Notice, you will have a defined timeframe to rectify an issue, which must be at least 21 days. As long as you comply in that timeframe, no further action should occur.

A Notice of Contravention (NoC) is a document or letter that tells you about health and safety laws you’ve broken. It explains how you’ve broken them and what you need to do to stop breaking them. This means an inspector thinks there’s been a serious breach of the law. If you are issued with a NoC, you will have to pay for the inspectors’ time, called Fee For Intervention (FFI). FFI costs £157 per hour and is payable for the time it takes HSE to identify what is wrong and help you put things right.

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Disclaimer: Content on this website may be of relevance to users outside of United Kingdom, but content links and examples are specific to the UK. Please check with your local authority for your country and industry requirements.

Originally published 12 October, 2020.

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