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Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008

On 16 January 2009 the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 came into force. This increases penalties and provides courts with greater sentencing powers for those who break health and safety law.

Welcoming the new Act, Judith Hackitt, who chairs the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), commented: "This Act gives lower courts the power to impose higher fines for some health and safety offences. It is right that there should be a real deterrent to those businesses and individuals that do not take their health and safety responsibilities seriously. Everyone has the right to work in an environment where risks to their health and safety are properly managed, and employers have a duty in law to deliver this.

"Our message to the many employers who do manage health and safety well is that they have nothing to fear from this change in law. There are no new duties on employers or businesses, and HSE is not changing its approach to how it enforces health and safety law. We will retain the important safeguards that ensure that our inspectors use their powers sensibly and proportionately. We will continue to target those who knowingly cut corners, put lives at risk and who gain commercial advantage over competitors by failing to comply with the law."

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 received Royal Assent on 16 October 2008 and came into force on 16 January 2009. The Act fulfils a longstanding commitment by the Government and HSE to provide courts with greater sentencing powers for health and safety crimes, and it follows on from the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, which came into force on 6 April 2008.

Three key points in the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 are:

  • to raise the maximum fine that may be imposed in the lower courts to £20,000 for most health and safety offences;
  • to make imprisonment an option for more health and safety offences in both the lower and higher courts;
  • and to make certain offences, which currently can only be tried in the lower courts, triable in either the lower or higher courts.

Although Judith Hackitt says employers who manage health and safety well have nothing to fear, remember that ignorance is no defence. Pilz Automation Technology has a variety of training courses and consultancy services available to help employers ensure that they are doing everything they should and not unwittingly exposing themselves to the risk of prosecution. For example, Pilz offers an IOSH Managing Safely course and a City & Guilds four-day Machinery Safety Course. In addition, consultants can perform Plant Assessments, PUWER Assessments and Risk Assessments, as well as supporting companies that are implementing or improving a Competency Management System.

Please contact Pilz to request more information about training and consultancy services.

This is a news item from Pilz Automation Technology in the UK. All the standards and directives described refer to the UK and may vary elsewhere.

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