Getting tough on Health & Safety

October 29, 2019

Recent cases suggest there is a much tougher approach being taken against companies, but more importantly directors of those companies, when it comes to breaches of Health & Safety law. 

One company director, Robert Harvey, was imprisoned for ten months after a fellow worker was crushed to death by an excavator.  The prosecution proved that Harvey had breach Health & Safety law by failing to undertake a sufficient risk assessment for employees working on the building project, had not had training in the correct operation of the excavator equipment and gave a dangerous instruction to a fellow worker.

Although it is rare that people are imprisoned, the fines being handed to companies also seem to be increasing.  Recently DHL, the global logistics firm, was fined £2.4 million following a collapse of tyres that crushed to death an employee.  A year earlier DHL had been fined £2 million for another significant Health & Safety breach.  Once again, the lack of a proper risk assessment was emphasised by the prosecution.

These cases demonstrate that liability can fall on both individuals and the company itself, meaning that everyone involved in company management must remain alert to their Health & Safety responsibilities – particularly where custodial sentences are a very real possibility.

As for financial penalties, the sentencing guidelines make clear that any fines much have a real impact to be considered sufficient.  The guidelines state “the fine must be sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to comply with health and safety legislation”

We have a team of experienced solicitors able to assist you with any aspect of Health & safety law, and it is important to involve us as soon as any investigation is commenced.

If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, then get in touch with us at or on 0845 200 3367 and let us help. We can advise on all aspects of your case.