How should retailers prepare for updated health and safety rules?

New health and safety laws coming into effect on February 1 will impose tougher penalties on businesses that fall foul of their responsibilities regarding customer safety. A serious breach could cost a company up to £10m in fines.

The new sentencing guidelines affect all businesses and should be a top priority for retailers.

A recent case involving Hugo Boss in September 2014 shows the regulator already looking at the new guidance when it fined the company £1.2m following the tragic and “wholly avoidable” death of a four-year-old boy who died in one of its stores when a mirror fell on top of him.

Addleshaw Goddard health and safety legal director Erin Shoesmith says: “When considering an appropriate fine, courts will assess the seriousness of the harm and the culpability of a company, together with turnover and profitability of an organisation to determine the correct sentence.”

The starting point for a fine can range from anywhere between £250,000 to £4m in the event of a death as a result of a flagrant disregard for health and safety.

In corporate manslaughter cases, the starting point could range between £300,000 and £7.5m. Where an offending organisation’s turnover exceeds £50m, a court is able to move outside the suggested ranges to achieve a proportionate sentence so as to have a “real impact”.

“Retailers should take the opportunity to review health and safety practices and to ensure they are doing all they can to negate or at least minimise risks to their staff and customers,” says Shoesmith.

“It is imperative that retailers understand their responsibilities and that this is communicated to all staff, irrespective of their seniority.”