• Under Section 2 of The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, it is the duty of every employer to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

    Under Section 3 a similar duty is owned by employers and the self-employed to persons other than their employees, for example, members of the public. Individual employees also have a legal responsibility to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and others at work.

    Where a company has committed an offence it is possible for a director, manager, company secretary or other similar officers of the company to be prosecuted in their personal capacity where the offence was committed with their consent, connivance or neglect.

    In February 2016 new sentencing guidelines came into effect which is likely to have the effect of increasing the fines and prison sentences which are handed out to those companies and individuals convicted of Health and Safety offences.

    The new guidelines take into account the blameworthiness on the offender, the severity of harm risked (and not just the actual outcome of the breach) as well as the financial and other circumstances of the case.

    The guidelines say that: “it should not be cheaper to offend than to take the appropriate precautions.”

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