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NON-INJURY PROSECUTIONS MAY RISE

H&S Offences Act may lead to increase non-injury prosecutions 

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act came into force on 16 January 2009. Many commentators have focused on potential liabilities for senior managers and their management teams who could face personal liabilities where serious errors occur. 

However, a more immediate implication may be a rise in the number of non-injury prosections initiated by HSE and other enforcing authorities. The maximum fine for each breach of regulations in the Magistrates Courts has now risen four-fold from £5k to £20k. For example, where regulators prosecute four breaches of regulations companies will now face a potential liability of £80k before local magistrates. Allowing for guilty pleas and no previous convictions a company could still face fines of around £40k even where there has been no injury. 

Comment: HSE enforcement policy allows for prosecution without injury, particularly where potential for harm is significant and the organisation has been provided with previous advice on those matters. Non-injury prosecutions, based upon inspector evidence, are more straightforward for regulators and the new Act will increase the incentive to initiate legal proceedings where conditions and attitudes etc. justify such action.

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