Legal Article - Health & Safety

The Consequences of Breaching Health and Safety Regulations

Breach of Health and Safety Regulations is a criminal offence and can result in the Company, or an individual manager, being prosecuted by the appropriate Health and Safety enforcement authority and if found guilty being fined or imprisoned.

Each breach can incur a fine of up to £20,000; deliberately breaking the law, or by being seriously negligent in carrying out legal duties that result in lives being endangered, can lead to unlimited fines and/or imprisonment.

The enforcing authorities are either Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Health and Safety Inspectors or local authority Environmental Health Officers. In general, the former are responsible for inspecting workshops/body repair shops, whilst the local authorities are responsible for petrol forecourts, offices and car showrooms.

Where all of these are on the same site, the law is unclear as to who has responsibility. Where the major business is sale of cars or petrol it is the local authority; where repair and servicing are the major activities (in terms possibly of numbers of employees, or some financial measure) it is the HSE.

It may be possible to challenge the right of the enforcement authority to visit the premises if it is clear they have no responsibility for the site.

Apart from prosecuting the employer, health and safety enforcement authorities may issue an improvement or prohibition notice. An improvement notice requires an improvement to be made in 21 days (this period may be extended).

A prohibition notice requires an activity to cease within a time limit, which in an emergency, can be immediately. The employer may appeal to a tribunal about either notice. Non-compliance with a notice can lead to prosecution in the magistratesí court.

An employee injured at work can sue the employer for damages if the employer is negligent in any way in providing safe and healthy working conditions. This obligation on the employer is a common law duty as well as a statutory one.

Published: 23 Mar 2011

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