Tough Penalties for Negligent Employers

The penalties that can be imposed upon employers who shirk their responsibilities for the safety of their workers are to be increased in a new Health and Safety Offences Act.

The range of offences for which an individual can be imprisoned will be broadened and the maximum penalty is to be raised from £2,000 to £50,000 a move that is being welcomed by workers unions and by lawyers who act on behalf of injured workers.

While any move that ensures employers take the health and safety of their workers seriously is a good thing, Denise Kitchener, chief executive of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), said that placing a statutory legal obligation on individual directors to ensure their workplace is safe in the first place would also help reduce deaths and injuries. She said “We live in a day and age in which profit still comes before safety for many employers, and the people who suffer are the workers who are injured as a result of this unacceptable mentality.”

UCATT, the construction industry union, have campaigned for better legislation to increase the safety of its members who work in the most dangerous industries in Britain. They believe, as do organisations such as the British Safety Council, that although increasing penalties may prevent employers from skimping on the safety of their workers, strict laws surrounding directors’ duties would be a stronger deterrent.

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