The number of directors prosecuted alongside their companies for safety offences almost doubled last year compared to the recent annual average, according to HSE figures.
Statistics released show that 46 directors and senior managers were prosecuted under Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 2015–16, compared to an annual average of 24 over the preceding five years.
Of these 46 prosecutions completed between April 2015 and March 2016, 34 individuals were either found or pleaded guilty; one was found not guilty; and in 11 instances the charges were withdrawn or the HSE offered no evidence.
Twelve directors were sentenced to either immediate or suspended jail terms. Two were disqualified from being directors: one for two years, one for ten.
The 46 prosecutions represent a six year high. Only 15 directors were prosecuted in 2014–15, but it 2010–11 this figure stood at 31.
The rise in prosecutions mounted against senior managers comes as those against employees have fallen. Between 2010–11 and 2014–15, the average number of cases initiated was 13 a year. In 2015–16, there was just one.
One director prosecuted in 2015–16 was given a four month suspended sentenced after he removed a guard from a tyre shredding machine. A worker’s arm was dragged into the machine and he subsequently had his forearm amputated.
Another was roofing firm director was fined £7000 in July 2015 when a worker died after falling through a rooflight.
This level suggests that the trend for a higher number of prosecutions established in 2015/16 is continuing.