Businesses face Health and Safety penalties

Health & Safety

Businesses that breach health and safety legislation will face increased penalties of up to £20,000 from January next year, the Government has warned.

Health & Safety

Under the Health and Safety Offences Act (2008), businesses that come before the lower courts for a breach of health and safety legislation risk a penalty of up to £20,000. Previously, the maximum was £5,000.

The range of health and safety offences which carry a prison sentence will also be broadened from January 2008. For example, under the new rules, failing to comply with a prohibition notice or breaching a licensing requirement now carries a jail sentence of up to six months if tried in a lower court, or up to two years if tried in a Crown Court.

Commenting on the new legislation, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) spokeswoman Prue Watson said:

“It discriminates against small businesses and makes red tape even tougher for them to deal with.”

“SMEs already spend seven hours each week dealing with red tape,” she added. “Health and safety legislation needs a common sense approach where businesses need to be aware of what measures to take in order to comply with regulations — but we don’t need increased penalties.”

Responding to the criticism, a Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said:

“It is generally accepted that the level of fines for some health and safety offences is too low. Indeed, it has been Government policy for sometime to increase penalties for health and safety offences.

“These changes will ensure that sentences can now be more easily set at a level to deter businesses that do not take their health and safety management responsibilities seriously and further encourage employers and others to comply with the law,” she added.

For more information about health and safety obligations, visit the Health and Safety Executive website

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