The Act, which received Royal Assent on 17th October 2008 supports the long held view of Government, HSE, many MPs and others that generally fines for health and safety offences are too low to be an effective deterrent.
The new law, which came into force in January 2009, revises the system of penalties applicable to certain offences relating to health and safety, raising the maximum fine that can be imposed in the lower courts to £20,000 for most offences and a custodial sentence an option for more offences. The main thrust of the legislation is to:
The maximum fine that can be imposed in the higher courts remains unlimited. The chairperson of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Judith Hackett, said the Act imposed no additional duties on small businesses which comply with health and safety law. She championed the legal change as a "real deterrent" to businesses which fail to take their health and safety responsibilities seriously.
"We will retain the important safeguards that ensure that our inspectors use their powers sensibly and proportionately," said Ms Hackett. "We will continue to target those who knowingly cut corners, put lives at risk and who gain commercial advantage over competitors by failing to comply with the law".
An overview of the new penalties made possible by this act is shown below.