Sentences toughened for health and safety offences

BUSINESS drivers and line managers who fall foul of the forthcoming Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008
could face tough fines or even a prison sentence. The act, which comes into force on 16 January, applies to a broad range of motoring offences and, unlike the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, a breach does not need to have resulted in a death.

It has been brought in to toughen up the sentencing provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
and will be used to prosecute employees deemed to have caused a serious accident.

Managers also face prosecution if their failings lead to an accident, such as sending poorly-maintained vehicles or tired or disqualified drivers out onto the road. The new law increases the maximum fine that can be imposed on summary conviction from £5,000 to £20,000 and broadens the range of offences that can result in a prison sentence.

Philip Somarakis, partner at Blake Lapthorn, said: “The act does not alter the obligations placed upon employers and employees, it simply increases the penalty in the event that the duties imposed under the Health and Safety at Work Act are breached.”

The new legislation differs from the Corporate Manslaughter Act by being broader in range and it means that an individual, rather than a company, can be prosecuted in the event of an accident, regardless of whether a death has occurred, if management failings can be proved.

It builds on and reinforces a host of legislation that applies to fleet management, including road traffic laws.

Nicola Sullivan