New Health And Safety Law Comes Into Force Today

Originally published 16th January 2009

New legislation comes into force today which significantly

changes the sentencing framework for health and safety

breaches. The effect of the Health and Safety (Offences) Act

2008 is to:-

raise the maximum fine which may be imposed in lower courts

from £5,000 to £20,000 for breach of

most health and safety offences;

makes imprisonment an option for more health

and safety offences in both lower and higher courts; and

make certain offences which are currently triable only in the

lower courts, triable in higher or lower courts.

Jail sentences of up to 6 months will now be possible for nearly

all types of health and safety offence, with the possibility of

extending this to 12 months in the future.

The changes introduced by the Health and Safety (Offences) Act

2008 apply to the whole of the United Kingdom. They have been

a long time coming - it was acknowledged by the Court of Appeal as

long ago as 1999 that the existing sanctions were too low, and the

Bill was first introduced to parliament in 2003. The new

limits should be a greater deterrent for businesses that do not

take their health and safety obligations seriously, and further

encourage employers and others to comply with the law. The

Act will also allow more cases to be prosecuted in the lower

courts, which is often a faster and cheaper way to dispose of


While there are no changes to the legal duties of businesses and

employers, the increased prospect of jail sentence or a hefty fine

means that they can no longer afford to...

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