H&S Prosecutions and Penalties

Previous SYT articles have touched on the issue of ‘individual liability’, which allows for prosecutions to be brought against staff members where H&S failures are seen to be attributable to their acts or omissions.

In effect, all persons within an organisation (i.e. Employees, Managers, Directors and Management Committee members) have the potential to be held liable under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 if their negligent acts or omissions result in harm being caused to any other persons. There is no ‘tariff’ set for Health & Safety offences although the Courts now have the power to impose imprisonment or an unlimited fine for serious offences. Those in positions of responsibility are recognised as having additional obligations, by virtue of their ‘managerial’ functions, and would be expected to properly manage/control H&S within their sphere of influence. Furthermore, and under common law, gross negligence offences may apply when individual officers cause death by their own grossly negligent behaviour. This offence is punishable by an unlimited fine and a maximum of life imprisonment.

However, it is important to note that in addition to ‘individual liability’, The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 allows companies and corporations to be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter (corporate homicide in Scotland) where serious failures in the management of H&S result in a fatality. Fines for high culpability offences are likely to start around £500,000 for the smallest of companies but are expected to exceed £10m for the most serious offences committed by large corporations. Under this Act, prosecutions would be of the Corporate Body and not individuals, but the liability of Directors, Committee/Board Members or other Individuals under H&S law or general criminal law would be unaffected, allowing both the corporate body and individuals to be prosecuted for separate H&S offences.

The clear message is that H&S Management should be properly planned, arranged, managed and monitored throughout the entire management chain to protect both the organisation and your individual staff members.