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Farms to face tougher health and safety penalties

Farmers and farm businesses to face tougher sentencing penalties 

Farm owners and agricultural businesses are to face tougher penalties from this month if they are found guilty of breaching health and safety regulations.

The new sentencing guidelines were introduced by The Sentencing Council in February this year and it means tougher penalties for any workplaces that are found guilty of breaking health and safety rules, including food hygiene offenses and corporate manslaughter.

The new regulations come just weeks after the death of two farmworkers in a slurry pit on farmland in Sunk Island in Holderness. Phil Cookson, from Roythornes Solicitors, which specialises in agricultural law, said: “Everyone in the industry wants to see farmers’ health and safety record take a turn for the better, for obvious reasons.”

Companies with a turnover of over £2m who are found guilty of breaking the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, can face a fine of up to £450,000; while large firms with a turnover of more than £50m, will find themselves facing a fine of up to £10m if they breach the health and safety regulations.

Under the new guidelines judges are advised to take the employer’s level of liability into account (low, medium, high, very high) and the level of risk and potential harm that could have resulted from the breach.

Mr Cookson added: “We can expect to see some small farm businesses hit really hard if they end up on the wrong end of a health and safety prosecution.”

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