New Health and Safety Legislation
The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 came into force on 16 January 2009 and provides the courts with increased sentencing powers for health and safety offences. Significantly, the Act widens the range of health and safety offences for which an individual can be imprisoned.
The new Act does not create any new duties but makes three important changes:
An increase in the maximum fine a Magistrates Court can impose for offences under health and safety regulations from £5,000 to £20,000. This change brings the maximum fine a Magistrates Court can impose for breaches of regulations in line with that available for a breach of general duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (“HSWA”). There is no change to the Crown Court’s power to impose an unlimited fine.
Provides the courts with the option of sentencing an individual to a period of imprisonment for up to two years (six months in the Magistrates Court) for most health and safety offences.
Increases the number of offences that can be heard in the Crown Court.
Prior to the introduction of the Act imprisonment was only an option for offences of contravening a prohibition/improvement notice or court order. Imprisonment was a punishment rarely imposed by the courts. A report published by the HSE in 2005 revealed that only 5 people had received a sentence of imprisonment since 1996.
Under Section 37 of the HSWA a director, manager or officer of a company can be prosecuted if his/her company’s health and safety breach was committed with their consent or connivance or is attributable to any neglect on their part. An individual as an employer can face prosecution for breaching their general duties of ensuring the health and safety of their employees and non-employees under the HSWA. An individual as an employee can also face prosecution for an offence under Section 7 HSWA of failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and others. For the first time an individual convicted of any of these offences now faces the risk of a sentence of imprisonment.
The impetus behind the new legislation stems in part from the fact that Judges have commented in many cases on the lack of imprisonment as an option. The Chair of the HSE has said “we will continue to target those who knowingly cut corners, put lives at risk and who gain commercial advantage over competitors by failing to comply with the law”.
The Government is hoping that the increased sentencing powers now available to the court will act as a deterrent and encourage organisations to comply with the law. Further by giving the Magistrates Court greater sentencing powers it is hoped that more cases can be concluded in the lower court thereby ensuring that cases can be dealt with more quickly and effectively with a lower cost to all parties.
Organisations must ensure that their health and safety management systems are fully compliant with the duties imposed by the HSWA. All employees must receive suitable training and understand their individual responsibilities. Organisations must ensure that supervision and management of their health and safety polices and procedures are in place and that such procedures are being followed.
VSS and H&S
With a proactive approach, Valley Security and Fire Protection Services works hard to remain accident free and compliant in all aspects of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
We have in place non flexible policies and an audited H&S management system.
Our people understand our passion for compliance, striving to uphold Health and Safety Best Practice.
Our accident record is exemplary – a great deal of effort, from all levels within the company, is directed at maintaining this level of achievement.
With this in mind, we commissioned a consultancy to firstly audit our existing arrangements, subsequently to fine tune our H & S Management System, policies and practices, which we have diligently ensconced.
Health and Safety proactive clients who responsibly ensure that contractors and suppliers operating on their premises are fully compliant, are suitably assured and impressed when dealing with Valley Security & Fire Protection Services.
To view our Health and Safety Policy, click here.