WORK WITH YOUR INSURER ON THE NEW SENTENCING GUIDELINES
This is the first time that food safety offences have been included in a sentencing guideline – and they have certainly made an entrance. Fines are set to soar to eye watering levels. These potentially significantly higher penalties will be headline grabbing and have a serious impact on profitability and investment. What was a £160,000 fine, could now be £1.6 million.
Exactly where the fine will sit within the range will depend on the mitigating and aggravating features – and this is where you and your insurance broker can work together.
Chief among the aggravating features is a poor health and safety record. Here an insurance broker should provide regular claims reviews throughout the year to identify trends and agree measures to put in place. Such actions will enable you to clearly demonstrate what measures have been taken to improve your safety record and that you take this whole area seriously.
Cost cutting at the expense of safety is another area that will be frowned upon. An insurance audit should look closely at your health and safety policy to support their presentation to insurers. Insurers support with health and safety could supplement the cost of your own programme.
Refusal of free advice or training will also come under the microscope. At Jobson James, we will share with you details of free training you can tap into via our involvement with IOSH,BFFF,BSB,BFBi and other trade associations. We also place insurance with partners in the industry who provide free training or advice.
On a positive note, if you can evidence steps you have voluntarily taken to remedy a problem, that will be looked kindly upon. For example, if you have cover for product recall, crisis containment and/or brand protection you are clearly demonstrating your recognition of the possible seriousness of the issue.
One area I would also like to draw your attention to concerns personal liability. Courts are already imposing stiff sentences on individuals – and directors in particular are being singled out, and, in many cases, punished with custodial sentences. We would strongly recommend that you take out insurance for legal defence costs for food hygiene legislation breaches against directors and your company. The majority of directors’ liability insurance only provides cover once the breach or offence has been established. This is too late. You need representation as soon as you are aware of an ‘alleged’ breach.
Amid all this gloom and doom, we must not forget that the majority of offences committed in this area are not done so with genuine criminal intent. Often it is a result of procedural failure – and this can be mitigated against with a bit of effort in this area.
The message in the guidelines is clear – ‘the fine must be sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to comply with health and safety legislation.’
Companies need to start taking this very seriously. Indeed, never has it been more important that your Health & Safety policy is not only watertight but positively glistens.
If we can help in any way, please call Dean Smith, ACII Chartered Insurance Broker, on 07551 156 810 or e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jobson James are specialist food insurance brokers with offices in Birmingham and London.