Senior managers face tougher penalties for breaching health and safety laws

Harsher penalties are being handed out to employers who breach health and safety laws following a change in approach to prosecutions, according to a report published by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The report shows that the changes introduced under the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 have led to more cases being tried in the lower courts, convicted offenders being given higher fines, and more custodial sentences for bosses who pay scant regard to the welfare of their staff or the public.

Some of the key findings of the report:

  • 86% of cases were heard in the lower courts after the Act came into force
  • The average fine imposed by the courts involving breaches of health and safety regulations alone was £7,310
  • The average fine for cases involving breaches of both health and safety regulations and the HSWA 1974, was £16,730
  • 346 cases attracted fines in excess of £5,000

The Act was designed to increase the maximum penalties for workplace health and safety offences that could be heard in both the lower and higher courts and it was believed that increased penalties would provide a greater deterrent to would-be offenders.

Significant changes enacted by the Act include:-

  • The maximum fine that could be imposed by the lower courts increased £20,000.
  • Magistrates and Sheriffs can now impose custodial sentences for the majority of offences.
  • Certain offences are now triable in either court.

For further details of the report click here.