It found a total of 292 incidents recorded during 2016, with an average payout almost a quarter of a million pounds. This was four times the £69,500 average cost in the previous year, when 358 cases were brought.
The findings follow a change in legislation in February 2016, with new guidelines laid out for health and safety, food hygiene and corporate manslaughter offences. The court now also considers culpability, seriousness and likelihood of harm, the size of a business and its turnover when imposing the fines.
Helen Devery, partner and head of health and safety at insurance and risk law firm BLM, said: “The new sentencing guidelines send a strong message to all businesses big or small: it is people and business critical to ensure that safety processes and systems are a board level priority. The introduction of the risk of harm means that near-misses will be reviewed and subject to potential prosecution so this has been a game-changing 12 months for the industry.
“Robust and proactive audit processes which interrogate and improve systems will be seen as best practice and at the heart of this is a commitment to effective risk assessment and training across all parts of the business.”
Fines for companies with a turnover of more than £50m can now reach up to £10m for health and safety offences, and corporate manslaughter fines could be as much as £20m.
The new system was introduced to improve the standards of compliance with health and safety legislation for larger organisations by imposing fines proportionate to the size of the business, rather than using a universal figure for all offences.
Last year 18 fines were issued with a value of more than £1m, compared with only two in 2015. These included the high-profile £5m fine issued to Alton Towers following the Smiler accident, the largest fine yet from a single incident.