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HEALTH AND SAFETY OFFENCES ACT IN FORCE

Tougher penalties now available to magistrates for H&S offences

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act came into force on 16 January 2009. The effect is to quadruple (£5k to £20k) the maximum fine in the magistrates court for breaches of H&S regulations. The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) president Nattasha Freeman said:Companies that play at health and safety will find it tough to survive the current economic climate. Those firms with poor health and safety practices, or firms that fail to provide a safe environment for their employees, could face the prospect of incurring increased financial penalties at a time when they really cannot afford it. One needless accident during such challenging times could also spell the end for your company.”

Lawyers have argued that the new law raises the potential liabilities for senior managers and their management teams who could face personal liabilities where serious errors occur. The changes allow for prison sentences of up to two years for individuals found guilty of health and safety breaches.

Comment: These changes are important and raise the potential punishments available to the courts in relation to health and safety offences. More cases should now be capable of sentencing in the magistrates court which ought to speed up and reduce the cost of justice. However, it is worth noting that HSE enforcement policy remains unchanged in relation to prosecution of companies and individuals. Companies with sound management systems that are followed diligently therefore have nothing to fear.  Everyone should take the raised stakes as an opportunity to review performance and reinvigorate systems with positive action rather than unfocussed and negative fear.

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One Response to “HEALTH AND SAFETY OFFENCES ACT IN FORCE”

  1. FIRST FINES UNDER H&S OFFENCES ACT | PP Construction Safety News Desk Says:

    […] than in previous cases of this nature because two of the three breaches occurred shortly after the Health and Safety Offences Act 2008 came into force providing greater sentencing powers to Magistrates. It s thought 1st Response […]