Health & Safety

The health & safety regime in the UK is one of the most onerous obligations facing organisations today. It presents a significant burden for business directors and managers, and can also cause issues for employees in their day-to-day activities. The vast majority of breaches of health & safety law are pursued through regulatory investigations and prosecutions, which can result in significant financial sanctions and in some cases, even imprisonment.

Bright Line law offer clients advisory and representative services. Our goal is to assist clients in complying with their regulatory obligations, while also protecting their interests in regulatory investigations. Our aim is to act as our client’s legal advisor, and become their long-term partner in assisting them to observe the increasingly stringent requirements imposed on them and their businesses under health and safety law.

Understanding the rules: what is Health & Safety law?

The vast majority of the rules relating to health and safety at work in the UK is contained within the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (“the 1974 Act”), together with a variety of other pieces of legislation.  This piece of legislation is incredibly complex, and lays down a number of obligations that are imposed on businesses. Key among these obligations is the duty of care that businesses owe to the people employed by them, as well as those members of the general public that come into contact with a business’s premises.  Health and safety law is vast and imposes a variety of requirements on employers, varying according to the industry they operate in.

Some of the key requirements under health and safety law includes, amongst other things:

  • Protecting individuals involved in working at height: employers are under a specific obligation to take precautions to allow those involved in working at height to do so safely. This includes providing the necessary equipment, as well as ensuring employees are aware and trained in its use and that it is kept in a condition that is fit for purpose;
  • Reducing the risk of accidents in the workplace: health and safety law requires employers to take tangible steps to reduce the risk of injury in the workplace. This includes the creation and implementation of various policies and procedures, and affects the design of the work environment;

Dealing with regulators: what sanctions result from breaches of health and safety law?

The health and safety Executive (“the HSE”) together with local authorities are responsible for regulating and enforcing health and safety law. The HSE is empowered to inspect and investigate businesses under health and safety legislation, and is also empowered to issue onerous sanctions to those found to have failed to observe their duties. Violation of health and safety laws can have a disastrous impact on businesses:

Improvement Notices

The HSE can investigate a business, determine that it is not honouring its legal obligations and issue an ‘improvement notice’. This sets out what steps are required to be taken in order to comply with the business’ responsibilities. Failure to comply is a criminal offence capable of resulting in an unlimited fine or a term of imprisonment. Improvement notices can also be taken into consideration in any future regulatory investigation, which could result in a more serious sanction being issued.

Prohibition notices

Like improvement notices, prohibition notices are very serious and can have significant reputational and operational consequences for a business. They tend to result where the HSE deems a businesses’ conduct to involve a significant amount of risk to its workers. Prohibition notices can halt the operations of a business and can threaten its continued viability.

Prosecution

Businesses can be brought before the courts if there is clear evidence of a failing to observe their duty of care, resulting in a gross breach via a work-related death. A successful prosecution can result in serve financial penalties for a business, together with a legal demand by the courts for it to publicise its being found guilty of breaching health and safety laws which could threaten its long-term sustainability.

Health and safety law is incredibly important for businesses, both in their dealings with employees as well as others, including but not limited tocontract workers and members of the public that they come into contact with on a daily basis. The penalties for breach of health and safety rules are varied and could destabilise the long-term prospects of a business. It is vital that those facing investigations for suspected failure to observe health and safety law, or seeking guidance on how to satisfy their obligations, seek expert legal advice from experienced lawyers that understand the position of clients operating in a commercial environment.

The reach of health and safety law is incredibly wide, and the consequences for a violation are significant for businesses. It is paramount that all legal concerns involving health and safety issues are handled by experts, skilled in interpreting legislative requirements for commercial clients. At Bright Line Law, that is placed at the heart of our service, delivering client-oriented solutions to regulatory concerns.

Bright Line Law is a leading law firm providing clients with a barrister-led service, driven by a goal of providing pragmatic legal advice to regulatory obligations. At Bright Line, we operate an elite health and safety law practice, providing clients with a comprehensive package of both advisory and representative services. Our lead counsel, Jonathan Fisher QC has extensive experience of acting for corporate clients in dealings with the HSE. He is also regularly instructed to provide advice and representation in legal proceedings for businesses, protecting client’s commercial reputation and their position in the marketplace. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Bright Line Law is a barrister law firm through which Jonathan Fisher QC, one of the UK's leading barristers in white collar crime cases, provides specialist advisory, advocacy, litigation, policy and strategic services. If you require specialist advice on health and safety laws, contact Jonathan Fisher QC directly at jf@brightlinelaw.co.uk or another member of our team or telephone us on + 44 (0)203 709 9470.

Jonathan Fisher QC
Lead Counsel

Email jf@brightlinelaw.co.uk
Telephone + 020 3872 2852

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