How Health And Safety Offences Are Monitored
It’s health and safety gone mad!
Or is it?
The Health and Safety Executive is the national regulator for workplace health and safety.
Believe it or not, there is a page on their website for debunking health and safety myths! One example being the myth that flags were banned from civic cars for “health and safety”, as well as alcohol removal at a workplace Christmas party.
So, what do they do?
The aim of the HSE is to prevent work-related death, ill-health or injury. The main focus is on the most serious risks, targeting hazardous industries and sectors with the worst risk management records. They provide free guidance and advice to businesses. They will also inspect premises and should something go wrong, they will investigate.
What powers do they have?
They have the authority to inspect premises, speak to relevant people, observe workplace activities, evaluate the effectiveness of risk controls and identify any breaches. They may take enforcement action and investigate any offences which they identify.
What is enforcement action?
Examples of enforcement would be to provide advice, serve notices, withdraw licences, conditions or exemptions. In more serious cases they can prosecute or issue cautions. In the event of a health and safety breach, you may be forced to pay a fine to cover the costs of the HSE helping to put things right.
The HSE has a selection criteria to decide which cases to look into, as they do not investigate everything that is reported to them. Cases maybe brought against corporate bodies and in some cases individuals.
What sentence could I get?
There aren’t any specific sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences other than corporate manslaughter although they are likely to come under general offence guidelines that are currently being consulted upon.
Air Liquide (UK) Ltd was fined £160,000 after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Members of their emergency response team were appropriately dressed to dispose of redundant gas bottles; however, one was dropped spilling highly hazardous fluid to the floor. Vapour drifted to 2 unprotected workers affecting one so severely he collapsed to the floor.
Bartram Manufacturing Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £82,000. A forklift truck reversed into a stack of roof trusses which fell onto an employee causing multiple fractures.
WE Rawson Ltd was fined £600,000 for breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. An employee died following crush injuries received when he attempted to free a stuck package from a packaging machine. The HSE found the company failed to take measures to prevent access to the danger zone between the moving conveyers.
Simon Thomerson of Clearview Design and Construction Ltd was jailed for eight months following the death of two labourers employed by him when they were involved in an explosive fire within a work unit. He pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
How can we help?
Even though a case may be investigated by the HSE rather than the police you can still be under investigation for criminal offences that can lead to imprisonment or very substantial fines for companies.
You need expert advice from the outset which we can provide. To discuss any aspect of your case, please contact Mortons Solicitors on 0161 477 1121 or email us.