Health & Safety Investigations

Our expert health and safety lawyers have an established record in defending businesses that are investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Their experience includes the most serious of accidents which have resulted in a death.

Health-and-Safety

The HSE enforces the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 that makes it the duty of ‘every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees’. Whatever the size of your business, you can find yourself the subject of an investigation, either directly from HSE or from a Local Authority enforcement team.

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 lays down a number of general duties required of employers to ensure sufficient safeguards and procedures are followed to minimise the risk of injury or death to employees or others in the workplace. The Act also makes it an offence if any one of the safety Regulations which supplement the Act is contravened.

Not all investigations by the HSE will result in a prosecution. In dealing with the HSE during investigations or the issuing of Notices, our proactive work is designed to try and avoid the possibility of a prosecution. Our health and safety lawyers have experience of defending corporate clients and individuals with HSE investigations, including representing Directors at interviews under caution and in Court Prosecutions.

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The most common ways in which the HSE enforce health and safety legislation are as follows

Improvement Notices:
The HSE issues Improvement Notices when an Inspector is of the opinion that a person:
– Is contravening one or more of the relevant statutory provisions
– Has contravened one or more of those provisions in circumstances that make it likely that the contravention will continue or be repeated

The notice will detail the provisions the HSE believe to have been contravened and will require the contravention to be remedied within a specified period. A failure to comply with the notice is a criminal offence. However, it is possible to appeal against the issuing of an Improvement Notice. Our expert team of Health and Safety lawyers can advise you about Improvement Notices.

Prohibition Notices:
Prohibition Notices are served when an Inspector believes that if a particular activity continues there is a risk of serious personal injury. The notice will detail what gives rise to the risk and request that the activities to which the notice relates stop until the specific issues have been addressed.

Failure to comply with the prohibition notice is a criminal offence, so it’s essential you speak to our team of Health and Safety lawyers to get advice on how to deal with a prohibition notice.
Prosecution following the Contravention of any of the Health & Safety Regulations

There is an ever increasing number of Regulations introduced which will lead to a prosecution if contravened. Proceedings will always commence in the Magistrates Court but serious breaches are moved to the Crown Court and a conviction can carry heavy fines to an individual, and/or company or even a custodial sentence in the most serious of cases where a fatality or serious injury has occurred.

Our health and safety lawyers can provide you with expert advice throughout the process to ensure that your interests and those of your business are best protected and the best possible result is achieved.

Gross Negligence Manslaughter:
Where a fatality has occurred, individuals can be investigated or prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter. This is subject to a three stage test for gross negligence manslaughter:

1. Applying the ordinary principles of negligence, is a defendant in breach of a duty of care towards the deceased?
2. If so, did the negligence cause the death?
3. If so, having regard to the risk of death involved, was the defendant’s conduct so bad, in all the circumstances, as to amount to a criminal act or omission?

Our health and safety lawyers understand the devastating effect that an allegation of gross negligence manslaughter can have on an individual and will work to rigorously protect your interests.

Corporate Manslaughter:
The offence of Corporate Manslaughter came into force in April 2008. It states that an organisation is guilty of an offence if the senior management organise their activities in such a way that it results in a person’s death. This amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased. Such cases will involve a joint investigation between the HSE, the police and the CPS.

Corporate manslaughter relates to corporate liability and does not therefore apply to individuals. However, existing Health and Safety legislation and gross negligence manslaughter will continue to apply to individuals.

If convicted of corporate manslaughter, companies can face penalties of unlimited fines, remedial orders to take steps to remedy any management failure that led to a death and publicity orders, whereby a company can be ordered to publicise its conviction.

Our Health and Safety Lawyers can pro-actively defend your organisation if it is accused of corporate manslaughter, to help minimise the commercial implications to the business. We can also represent your company to protect its interests before a Coroner’s Inquest.

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