Importance of compliance with Health & Safety legislation

Employers have a primary duty in law to protect their employees from harm while in employment and to provide a comfortable, safe environment in which to perform their contracted duties.

The first Factory Act of 1802 has been followed at intervals ever since as Parliament has regulated working conditions for the growing number of people employed in industry, followed by later legislation covering shops and offices.

When the Health and Safety at Work Act was introduced in 1974, 651 people were killed in work-related accidents in that year but after 35 years of supervision by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the toll of workplace fatalities was reduced to 180 in 2009.

The Corporate Manslaughter Act and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 became law in April 2008 and clarify the criminal liabilities of companies including large organisations where serious failures in the management of health and safety result in a fatality.

Prosecutions will be of the corporate body and not individuals, but the liability of directors, board members or other individuals under health and safety law or general criminal law, will be unaffected. And the corporate body itself and individuals can still be prosecuted for separate health and safety offences.

Companies and organisations should keep their health and safety management systems under review, in particular, the way in which their activities are managed and organised by senior management. The Institute of Directors and HSE have published guidance for directors on their responsibilities for health and safety

Employers must keep up to date with their duties under the Act and any changes. For example, from October 1, 2009, the mandatory four-day first aid at work training courses were reduced to three days and there will be an option for a one-day course for smaller businesses.

All employees qualified in first aid at work will still have to attend a two-day re-qualification course every three years.

But employers who are not adequately prepared for these and other changes of employment law could face fines as well as risk the welfare of staff.

Commercial marketing director at St John Ambulance Richard Evens said, "We strongly recommend that businesses embrace the changes to continue to make our workplaces as safe as possible and ensure that if an accident does happen, they are well prepared.

"The worst possible scenario is that an employee is injured and a workplace has not got enough first aiders trained to deal with that situation. We don't know how the Health and Safety Executive will respond to breaches in regulations but businesses should be wary of fines or even charges under the Corporate Manslaughter Act."

Employment law services regarding Health and Safety

JMW Solicitors regularly provides advice and services to companies in many sectors regarding the drafting of Employee Handbooks, which contain Health and Safety information, and contracts of employment to ensure they comply with all aspects of employee law and Health and Safety legislation. We are able to draft bespoke documents or advise on existing documents, and identify the consequences of any changes in the law.

All our employment law services are tailored to your individual business needs, and delivered in a cost-effective and timely manner. Should you wish to discuss the ways in which JMW Solicitors could contribute to your business' legal needs, keeping it efficient, safe and legally-compliant, please contact us on 0345 872 6666 or complete our enquiry form and we will respond promptly.

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