Fleet operators need to understand stiffer health and safety sentencing

With so many challenges currently facing the sector, Cartwright focuses on three areas: risk management; its new relationship with Transport for London (TfL); and the revised health and safety sentencing guidelines.  Cartwright will explore the current challenges facing fleets and ways to mitigate risk and provide more detail on Truck Excellence and Van Excellence audits, when supplemented by additional audit items, which are now recognised by TfL. Finally, the new, more rigorous sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, which came into force in February and direct the courts to consider the sentencing of offending organisations with a step-by-step approach including an assessment of turnover to set a starting point for a fine as well as a stronger focus on the risk of a custodial sentence for those found guilty of serious breaches, will be discussed along with potential implications.

Van and truck fleet operators need to grasp the fundamentals of the new, stiffer sentences facing companies and bosses who breach health and safety rules, Mark Cartwright, head of vans at the Freight Transport Association will tell delegates at FN’s Commercial Fleet Van & Truck show.

Speaking on 20 September as part of the plenary theatre session, Cartwright will explore the current landscape and the challenges facing operators with a focus on risk management and mitigation.

However, Cartwright believes the more rigorous sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, which came into force in February, are not being given the attention they deserve by fleet operators.

“The new rules are far-reaching,” said Cartwright, “I don’t think fleet operators realise their potential impact and others believe health and safety doesn’t apply to van fleets and that isn’t the case. Operators are liable and they really need to appreciate the implications of the new sentencing guidelines.”

If a health and safety breach results in a serious outcome, the new sentencing guidelines direct the courts to consider the sentencing of offending organisations with a step-by-step approach. The new guidelines include using the offending company’s turnover as the starting point for determining a fine and in the most serious circumstances senior managers can find themselves facing prison sentences.

Added Cartwright: “Many don’t realise the implications of the guidelines if companies get something wrong, penalties have increased significantly. I always use the example of the Indian restauranteur who was jailed for six years for manslaughter when one of his customers with a severe nut allergy died of anaphylactic shock after eating a take-away despite specifying ‘no nuts’ yet the food contained a ground nut mix including peanuts.

“The case illustrates the courts will take a strong stance if the pursuit of profit is found to take precedence over health and safety.
“If an operator is found to be lax and something bad happens, in the most extreme circumstances, senior managers could end up with a custodial sentence whilst fines can also be very large and are now linked to company turnover.”
Cartwright will also detail its new relationship with Transport for London (TfL) which has agreed the FTA’s accreditation Truck Excellence and Van Excellence audits, when supplemented by additional audit items, will be recognised as meeting its work-related road-risk clauses for companies seeking to bid for or fulfil contracts.

“It’s very welcome news and we are delighted,” Cartwright said. “Although our accreditation does not entitle the operator to FORS (Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme) bronze accreditation, it does provide an alternative for companies seeking appointment with TfL.”