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2020 / 2021 Edition

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New health and safety enforcement policy

THE Health & Safety Commission has published a new enforcement policy statement which, for the first time, sets out specific criteria for deciding whether to investigate and prosecute breaches of health and safety law.

The policy will apply to all Britain’s enforcing authorities, including the HSE and all local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, making it clear to inspectors, employers, workers and the public what standards they should expect regarding the enforcement of health and safety in the workplace.

The policy states that a prosecution should normally take place in any one of a number of circumstances, including: when a workplace death is caused by a breach of the law; if there has been reckless disregard of health and safety requirements; and if the offender’s standard of health and safety management is far below what is required.

Decisions on whether to investigate a workplace incident must take account of a number of factors, including: the severity and scale of potential as well as actual harm; the offender’s previous health and safety record; and the wider relevance of the incident, including the public concern it causes.

The policy also requires all enforcing authorities and their inspectors to: ensure they consider the role of the management chain and individual directors and managers in any possible offences and take enforcement action against them if the evidence shows this is justified; notify the director of an offending organization each time the enforcing authority issues an improvement notice, prohibition notice or takes a prosecution against that organization; publicize annually the names of all organizations and individuals convicted of health and safety offences over the previous 12 months, as well as similar information regarding all improvement and prohibition notices issued over the same period.

HSC chairman Bill Callaghan said: ‘Our main concern is for accidents not to happen in the first place, but where serious incidents do occur we must have an effective framework within which appropriate enforcement action can take place.

‘This policy demonstrates to employers, workers and all other related parties what they can expect from the enforcers. Now, more than ever, there is no excuse for those at the top to be ignorant of their responsibilities or to fail to take effective action.

‘If you cannot manage health and safety, then you cannot manage,’ he said.

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