Will new HSE director mean more prosecutions for Health and Safety breaches?

Last month, the HSE began the search for its new Director of Legal Services. This is interesting because this is a brand new position that has been created at the organisation following the HSE’s recent Chief Executive-led review.

The HSE said the new role was pivotal and would contribute to directly to public confidence in the HSE and in the wider justice system.

The new role will be filled by a qualified barrister or solicitor with considerable post-qualification experience, an extensive prosecutorial background in regulatory prosecutions, experience of leading a team of caseworkers and experience of managing external legal providers.

So, why is this of interest to businesses? Essentially, because this new director will review the HSE’s enforcement activities and lead its prosecution capability.

It has been noted in the press that the number of successful prosecutions carried out by the HSE has dropped in recent years. Whilst in 2018-19 the HSE still prosecuted hundreds of cases for breaches its figures were down 44% on 2015-16.

In a story on the new role in Construction News, an HSE spokesman was quoted as saying the role has been created to lead one of the HSE’s core functions through a period of change and was not a direct response to past or future changes in prosecution numbers – it has a much broader remit.

However, given the drop in prosecution statistics during recent years and the fact the new director will have an extensive prosecutorial background it’s unsurprising that the media have speculated the organisation is looking to boost its prosecution figures.

What can businesses face if they are found guilty of breaching Health and Safety Law?

Firms which are found to be breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 can find themselves facing prosecution. Their operations may be suspended and they can face fines ranging from hundreds of pounds to millions of pounds. Less well known is the fact that individuals at the company, such as company owners and directors, can also be taken to court. If they are successfully prosecuted, they may end up having to pay court costs and fines and, in some instances, may even receive prison sentences.

How do I protect myself and my company from prosecution?

Getting to grips with complex Health and Safety legislation can be a real challenge for company owners and directors. However, if they don’t manage the situation and a breach occurs people can get injured or killed and companies may not survive the ensuing prosecution.

About 97% of businesses will never fully get on top of their Health and Safety responsibilities which is why Acorn Safety Services offers a range of services to help businesses fulfil their legal requirements.

The wide range of services that we offer include fire risk assessments, construction health and safety inspections and audits and asbestos services. Our site inspection service alone reduces, if not eliminates, the possibility of the HSE issuing notices for enforcement. We also act as CDM consultants and as a firm’s retained health and safety consultant. Firms who take up our retained health and safety service can rest assured that they will become fully health and safety compliant and as a result protected from prosecutions, fines and prison sentences. We do all the hard work for them without them having to shoulder the cost of a full-time employee.

To protect your company and your team from Health and Safety breaches and the risk of prosecution visit https://acornhealthandsafety.co.uk/ or contact us at info@acornhealthandsafety.co.uk or on 01604 930380.

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