The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008

What is the reason for this legislation?

It is generally accepted that the level of fines for some health and safety offences is too low. These changes will ensure that sentences can now be more easily set at a level to deter businesses that do not take their health and safety management responsibilities seriously and further encourage employers and others to comply with the law.

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008, will increase penalties and provide courts with greater sentencing powers for those who flout health and safety legislation.

The Act raises the maximum penalties that can be imposed for breaching health and safety regulations in the lower courts from £5,000 to £20,000 and the range of offences for which an individual can be imprisoned has also been broadened.

The Act, which covers Great Britain and Northern Ireland, will come into force in January 2009.

The main points of the Act are;

Increasing penalties and providing the Courts with greater sentencing powers has been Government and HSE policy since the publication of the Revitalising Health and Safety Strategy Statement in June 2000.

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 was introduced as a Private Members Bill and piloted through the House of Commons by the Rt Hon Keith Hill MP and by the Rt Hon Lord Bruce Grocott in the House of Lords.

The effect of the Act is to:

a) raise the maximum fine which may be imposed in the lower courts to £20,000 for most health and safety offences;

b) make imprisonment an option for more health and safety offences in both the lower and higher courts;

c) make certain offences, which are currently triable only in the lower courts, triable in either the lower or higher courts.

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