Prevention & Cure
If you haven’t been the subject of a prosecution, we hope your aim is to keep your business that way. Prevention is always better than cure and there is no harm in ensuring that your organisation is compliant. If you are wondering whether your business is compliant with the Health and Safety law then please contact us. We can at the very least point you in the right direction, even if you didn’t want to have a full assessment.
If you are already under investigation, or believe that you might soon be under investigation, we would urge you to contact us straightaway for a no-obligation discussion. If you don’t choose to contact us, then at the very least we would urge you to contact another expert – your future may depend on it.
Health and Safety Law
There has been a steady and almost insatiable increase in focus on Health and Safety law in the workplace in this country. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (“the Act”) all employers owe duties to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees and people who may visit their premises (members of the public for example).
As an employer the Act imposes a great deal of responsibility on you and your business. Amongst other things, you have a duty of care to:
Ensure that you make the workplace safe;
Ensure that you take measures to prevent risks to health;
Ensure that there are adequate first aid facilities;
Have in place and maintain emergency plans
Ensure that you have measures in place to prevent or control exposure to substances that may damage health.
Ensure that you have risk assessments in relation to matters that may be hazardous to health, where you employ 5 or more people
Personally Liable for Health and Safety Breaches
The Health and Safety Law imposes duties not only on organisations but also on directors, senior managers, manufacturers or owners of premises. It is important therefore to understand that the Health & Safety provisions can apply against you personally.
Types of Work Where Health and Safety Law Applies
The type of work you or your company undertakes will determine which authority will be responsible for ensuring compliance. You must be aware that the Act applies to a broad range of work activities, which may include any of the following:
Fairgrounds. This could be the case whether you are arranging a single activity within a fairground or organising the entire fair. This would apply equally to mobile fairgrounds and permanent fairs;
Construction. This could include independent contractors undertaking work for certain construction jobs;
Offices, including mobile and temporary offices;
Catering services. This will include mobile catering and permanent catering facilites;
Restaurants, take aways, fast food huts and mobile coffee outlets and coffee machine dispensers;
Retail shops and shopping centers;
Warehouses and storage warehouses, wholesale outlets and membership outlets;
Clubs and bars;
Churches and places of worship. This would include both mobile and permanent sites.
Far from being a comprehensive list of the types of work activities that are required to comply, the list is designed to provide an understanding that most organisations are under a duty to protect their employees and members of the public.
Criminal Liability as a Result of Health and Safety Breaches
It is a criminal offence to breach the obligations contained within the ‘Health and Safety regulations.
If safety breaches within the workplace cause a death then those responsible may also face prosecution for individual gross negligence manslaughter or corporate manslaughter where the Defendant is an organisation.
In most cases, a prosecution will follow where one or more of the following have occurred:
A suspected breach of the regulations has led to a death;
There has been a reckless disregard of health and safety requirements;
Work has been carried out without an appropriate license.
Punishment for Breaches of Health & Safety Regulations
Where a breach of the Health and Safety regulations has been proven, there are different types of penalties which could follow. The most common include:
A fine against the organisation;
A fine against a director, senior manager, manufacturer or owner of the premises;
Imprisonment or custodial sentence. Such a sentence could be result in immediate custody or could be suspended for a period of time;
An Order requiring specified steps to rectify the breach within a certain period of time and to a specified standard;
A Disqualification Order;
In addition, you should be mindful that there may also be claims for compensation. Furthermore, it is generally the principle that a losing party to proceedings (including a prosecution where you accept guilt), it is standard practice for the Courts to order the cost of the Prosecutions be paid.
The Effect on your Business
You should be mindful of the adverse effect, that a prosecution can have on your wider business interest. The damage caused to a businesses reputation by a conviction can, in the long run, turn out to be more costly then the fine itself both in terms of public confidence but also the net worth of your business, especially if you are looking to sell the business at any time in the future.
Getting Legal Advice Early
It is of the utmost importance to protect you, managers and or owners of the business and the business itself. All investigations into health and safety breaches are conducted in accordance with the Criminal Law. We have been specialist for over 15 years and specialist advice is what you will need. Let our solicitors investigate the incident and prepare and present a compelling case on your behalf.
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