Changes introduced under the Health and Safety Offences Act has led to employers being hit with tougher penalties for breaching serious health and safety laws according to a new report.
Since the changes were introduced to the Act, more cases have been tried in the lower courts, which in turn has seen higher fines being handed out to convicted offenders and an increase in jail sentences for unscrupulous employers who refuse to acknowledge the importance of the health and safety of their staff or the general public.
Speaking about the tougher penalties, the Minister of State for Health and Safety, Mike Penning (pictured) said: “By handing greater sentencing powers to Magistrates and Sheriffs it has sent a clear message to unscrupulous employers that if the do not take their responsibilities seriously they will face stiff penalties, which include heavy fines and – in the worst cases – prison.
“At the same time it has removed the burden of prosecuting all but the most scenarios of cases through the Crown Courts, which is generally less efficient, more time consuming and more expensive than hearings held at the lower courts.”
The reports findings show that 86% of cases of this nature were now being heard in lower courts and that the average fine imposed for serious breaches of health and safety regulations had increase by 60%.
There was also a 25% increase on fines for cases that breached both health and safety regulations and the Health and Safety at Work Act.
When the Act was introduced it was hoped that the greater punishments would provide a tougher incentive for the employer to obey by the correct standards for their staff and the general public, with average fines ranging from £4,577 to £20,000. The maximum used to be just £5,000.
Such punishments should have a positive effect when it comes to standards at work for employees and will hopefully drive the number of accidents occurring in the workplace down.
1. Wikipedia; Sam Friedrich; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mike_Penning,_October_2009_1.jpg