If you fail to manage health and safety effectively it can lead to prosecution for a number of different types of offence. It is not only a fatal accident that can lead to prosecution. You are more likely to be prosecuted for other types of offences than corporate manslaughter.
In addition to prosecution, people who are injured as a result of your business' negligence can sue for civil damages.
All employers are subject to a range of requirements under health and safety law, and if you fail to comply it can lead to action being taken against you. You have a general responsibility for the health and safety of everyone affected by your business and its activities.
Specifically, you have a legal responsibility to:
- have a competent source of health and safety advice - this could be a member of staff or an external consultant
- conduct an assessment of the risks your business faces
- have a health and safety policy in place - if you have five or more employees, this must be in writing
- comply with certain specific legal requirements including recording and reporting accidents, consulting employees on health and safety issues, and ensuring they understand and carry out their responsibilities for health and safety
- take out employer's liability insurance
You may need to register your business with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) or with your local council's environmental health department.
You also have general responsibilities that you should be aware of. These include basic requirements for appropriate ventilation, heating, lighting, workstations, seating and welfare facilities.
In some cases, your industry may have its own specific requirements for keeping your workers safe. Obligations range from providing appropriate protective clothing and equipment through to assessing the risks from hazardous substances, such as asbestos and lead, and taking appropriate precautions.
Manage health and safety effectively
You have a duty of care to ensure that no one is harmed by the activities that your business carries out. Meeting this requirement should involve a comprehensive approach to risk management that is led from the top of your business. If you do not put health and safety at the core of your decision-making you can face major problems. This could lead to incidents that result in both prosecutions and civil action.
Having a board member with specific responsibility for health and safety shows employees that you consider proper health and safety management is important. You should regularly consult your employees on health and safety.
One way to properly manage safety risks in your business is to set up a health and safety management system.
If your business doesn't meet its obligations, either the business or individual managers and workers can be prosecuted. This could lead to heavy fines, imprisonment and the disqualification of directors. Where a gross failure to fulfil health and safety obligations leads to someone's death, the business itself could face a charge of corporate manslaughter. Individual managers and workers could face a charge of gross negligence manslaughter.