Personal liability for health and safety breaches in criminal law can arise either as a result of an infringement of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA) and/or the regulations made under it or at common law.
Recent Section 37 Case Example
A car breaking scrap yard company has recently been fined £60,000, PLUS a sole Director of the company was given a 20-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months, including 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days, 180 unpaid work hours and he was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £3,923. A seriously defective fork lift truck had been in use at the scrap yard, which had been reversed down a ramp, and which ran over a worker. This resulted in the worker receiving multiple fractures to both legs. When an investigation was carried out by the Health & Safety Executive, the forklift truck was found to have had no working foot brake, no working hand brake and the steering system was defective at the time at the time of the incident.
Additionally, the investigation found that there were no measures in place to segregate pedestrians and moving vehicles and the company had no employer’s Liability Compulsory Insurance.
The Health & Safety Executive found that an offence had been committed under Section 37(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974, with the consent or connivance of, or neglect on the part of the Director. The Director was personally prosecuted on that basis. The court found the Director was personally liable and was personally punished accordingly.
Can a Director Be Sent to Prison?
The scope of the legislation is to bring criminal liability to those who are in a position of real authority within a business, the decision makers - those who have both the power and responsibility to decide corporate policy and strategy.
If a Director is convicted under Section 37, a crown court can impose a prison sentence of up to two years imprisonment. The court can also disqualify a defendant from being a Director under the Disqualification of Directors Act 1986.
Written by: John Carver