Health and safety law changes

In April 2012 we saw changes to the law regarding the reporting of accidents and injuries in the workplace. The amendments to the regulations, billed by the government as “bringing common sense back to health and safety” focus on reducing the burden of reporting any incidents through the official channels.

Following the changes, business owners will only be required to report injuries that keep employees away from work for seven days. Prior to the 6th April employers were required to report injuries that kept employees off work for three or more days.

In addition the reporting period has now increased. Employers will now have 15 days to report an incident. Previously, the timeframe for reporting stood at 10 days.

Less unnecessary red tape for businesses can only be positive news for business owners, although many have questioned whether the changes go far enough to significantly reduce the burden on employers.

Employers need to be aware that whilst the changes to the reporting of injuries may have been relaxed somewhat, it does not mean that there will be a reduction of incidents and any breach of the law will still be treated extremely seriously by the Health and Safety Executive.

Fines for the most serious safety breaches are now routinely in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. Individuals can be imprisoned for breaches of health and safety law, with sentences of up to six months for convictions in the Magistrates’ Courts and up to two years in the Crown Courts.

Employers must continue to rigorously abide by the regulations and whilst an incident need only be reported where it keeps an employee away from work for seven days or more; an accurate record of all incidents must still be kept in an accident book. If business owners ever find themselves the subject of investigation for a supposed breach then specialist advice should be sought from the outset.

For more information on the changes to the law or to discuss a potential workplace health and safety issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Ian Liddle
Partner, Farleys