As a manager in an organisation you may be taking on more than you bargained for as you may find yourself in court on a health and safety charge.

In an interesting article from the SHP, a solicitor presenting at one of their events had pointed out that directors and senior managers are more in the firing line than ever before when it comes to health and safety prosecutions.

Although the only 68 prison sentences have been handed down to individuals over the last five years, the introduction of the Health and Safety (Offences) Act that came five years ago has seen some significant changes. For instance, the HSE’s enforcement policy now requires inspectors to consider the entire management chain and the role of individual directors and managers in cases of any health and safety failings.

Under section 37 of the HSWA 1974, for a person to be charged it must be shown that their consent, connivance, or neglect contributed to the failing, where neglect is cited as requiring “the identification of a duty of care owed and a failure to observe that duty by the individual concerned.”

In addition, Section 7 of the Act doesn’t relate to the seniority of a position, thus making it clear that an individual cannot rely on the defence of doing nothing and blaming the company and/or the managers.

The moral of the story, according to this SHP article, is “be careful about your job title, job description and responsibilities. If you are at the coalface, you are at risk even if you are not the director responsible for health and safety.”

For individuals prosecuted for a work-related health and safety offence, you can face:

  • life imprisonment – or an average of at least four to seven years – for a conviction of gross-negligence manslaughter;
  • an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment for a section 37 offence;
  • up to two years on prison for breaching a Prohibition Notice; and
  • disqualification as a director for up to 15 years.

Our philosophy is that poor Health and Safety just isn’t worth the risk. If you’re unsure about your policies, procedures or work practices, contact your local HBE office about an Health and Safety audit, before the inspector knocks.