Opinion: Safety fines are getting out of control

Grant Prior 4 years ago
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Galliford Try and Costain were fined £1.4m each this week after a worker lost three toes at a water treatment plant.

An accident like that is obviously horrendous and shouldn’t happen.

But fines being handed out by the courts for safety breaches are accelerating at an alarming rate.

Bigger and bigger penalties are a blunt instrument that do little to improve safety standards.

The fine money is just pumped back into the court system or the public coffers.

It’s all starting to smack more of a revenue raising exercise than a drive to boost site safety.

Why not order offenders to spend more on safety training? Or pay some of a fine to the victims and their families?

The major contractors are prime targets because their large turnovers mean they get hit with the highest fines on the multiplier used by judges.

Profitability may be a better alternative measure in a construction world where large firms exist on wafer-thin margins.

Most of the safety problems lurk at the smaller end of the industry where firms often cease trading rather than face a trial after an accident.

Health and safety is, and should always be, construction’s number one priority.

Most large sites today have world-class standards and the major players do all they can to avoid danger.

If a firm is knowingly putting workers at risk then yes – throw the book at them.

But many site accidents are just that. Companies should be punished when they happen.

But there must be more effective ways than simply hitting them with huge fines.

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