The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 (the “Act”) came into force on 16 January 2009, increasing penalties for health and safety offences. Principally the Act:

  • raises the maximum fine that can be imposed when a case is brought in a lower court from £5,000 to £20,000;
  • broadens the range of cases that can be brought before the higher courts where the potential fine for committing an offence is unlimited; and
  • exposes directors, managers and other employees to the risk of imprisonment for up to 2 years where an offence was committed with their consent or connivance or was due to their negligence.

This Act reinforces the need for employers and employees, particularly those in senior management roles, to take their health and safety responsibilities seriously. Unfortunately most small and medium sized businesses tend to take a rather cavalier attitude to Health & Safety issues. Often they think that it is only “dangerous” businesses that have to worry – perhaps the building trade or industrial processes. This is not the case. An employee having an accident by slipping on spilt milk in the kitchen or burning themselves on a cooker may well trigger an investigation and prosecution.

However for most businesses the task of complying with health and safety requirements does not have to be onerous or complicated. The following list sets out some of the key practical measures an employer should implement to ensure a safe and healthy work environment:

  1. Engage a competent person or consultant to advise you of your health and safety duties.
  2. Put in place a health and safety policy detailing the approach, objectives and arrangements you have in place to manage health and safety within your business.
  3. Carry out risk assessments to decide what could harm people and what precautions to take; act on the findings of these assessments; put sensible controls in place to prevent accidents and ill health; and ensure they are followed.
  4. Consult your employees and provide them with health and safety information and, where appropriate, relevant training.

James Green & Co have extensive experience in helping companies put these measures in place. If this is an area where you think you would benefit from our advice and practical assistance, please let us know by emailing postmaster@jamesgreenandco.co.uk

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