Directors face fast track penalties for health and safety breaches

A new Bill to increase the penalties for health and safety violations and
make it easier for the court to imprison offenders has been introduced in the
House of Commons.

The Health & Safety at Work (Offences) Bill was due to be reviewed on 4
April 2003. Its main purpose is to raise the maximum penalties for health and
safety offences under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, and increase
the penalties for not having Employers Liability Insurance.

The Bill makes the following amendments to the 1974 Act:

– Raises the maximum fine the lower courts can impose to £20,000 for most
health and safety offences

– Makes imprisonment an option for more health and safety offences

– Makes certain offences that are currently triable only in the lower
courts, triable in either court.

"The Bill presents a further problem for many firms, because of the
spiralling cost of insurance and many small firms have found it difficult to
obtain any insurance at all," said Ron Reid, partner at Shoosmiths
solicitors. "The health and safety agenda must remain a top priority as it
is directors and senior management who will be in the firing line and likely to
face the possibility of personal prosecution."

The Bill is thought to be a response the Government’s failure to introduce
in the Queens Speech the long anticipated legislation regarding corporate
manslaughter offences.

"If the Government does adopt it, it will dovetail quite nicely with
its revitalising health & safety’ strategy [launched in June 2000] which
promised fines linked to turnover rather than profit," Reid added.

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