New law introduces harsher penalties for health and safety failings

Managers and directors across the UK have been warned that they risk imprisonment for health and safety failings, after a new law was passed.

The Health and Safety Offences Act 2008 received royal assent last week and will mean stricter punishments from January 2009.

The new law raises the maximum penalty that can be imposed for breaching health and safety regulations in the lower courts from £5,000 to £20,000, and massively broadens the range of offences for which an individual can be imprisoned.

Simon Joyston-Bechal, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said: “The possibility of individuals being imprisoned for health and safety offences is a significant and worrying development, particularly for company directors and managers.

“It is our experience that good managers can make mistakes which, when prosecuted with the benefit of hindsight, can now lead to loss of liberty as well as a criminal fine.”

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