Employers urged to prioritise health and safety

The Health and Safety Commission has issued new guidelines on the standards employers should meet when complying with health and safety regulations in the workplace.

“Most employers do treat health and safety as a priority. But there are still many who donÂ’t, with tragic consequences,” says Bill Callaghan, chairman of the Commission.

The new policy statement on health and safety sets out for the first time specific criteria that enforcing authorities should use to decide whether to investigate and prosecute breaches of health and safety law. It is intended for inspectors and the public, as well as employers and employees.

The HSC says the policy shows how these authorities will “go about ensuring health and safety law will be complied with.” Tough and consistent criteria will be applied to businesses, large or small, across all sectors. The guidance is to make all aware of the standards to be applied.

Callaghan explains that the organisationÂ’s main concern is to avert accidents in the first place. “Much of the enforcing authorities’ activity is designed to encourage employers to assess risks properly and take relevant preventative measures.”

However, when serious accidents do occur, a framework needs to be in place to take the appropriate enforcement action, he added.

Callaghan says the HSC relies on responsible bosses to look after the health and safety of those in their workplace and tries to give encouragement for them to do so.

He warns that: “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, you cannot manage.”

Under the policy a prosecution may take place under any number of circumstances, including the following:

* when a workplace death is caused by breach of the law;

* if there has been a reckless disregard of health and safety requirements;

* if the offender’s standard of health and safety management is far below what is required.

The costs of possible penalties if health and safety law is breached, can range from £5,000 to an unlimited fine, imprisonment and the disqualification of directors.

Furthermore, the names of all organisations and individuals convicted of health and safety offences over the past year are publicised annually, as well as similar information on prohibition and improvement notices.

For further information on the enforcement policy statement, as well as health and safety law, visit www.hse.gov.uk .

With thanks to Lloyds TSB Success4Business.

See also: Health and safety checklist for small businesses

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