Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 came into force in January and received a good deal of alarmist publicity. To an extent this is justified since it makes more health and safety offences triable in the lower as well as the higher courts and raises the maximum penalties for most offences to £20,000 and imprisonment for up to 12 months.

An amendment to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, it means that anyone who has control to any extent over work premises may be caught by the legislation. However, the Health and Safety Executive has done its best to reassure employers by stating that their enforcement policy will be to target "those (businesses) that cut corners and gain commercial advantage over competitors by failing to comply with health and safety law and who put their workers and members of the public at risk."

Prosecutions should be in the public interest and where one or more of the following list of circumstances apply:

  • where death was a result of a breach of the legislation

  • there has been reckless disregard of health and safety requirements

  • there have been repeated breaches which give rise to significant risk, or persistent and significant poor compliance

  • false information has been supplied wilfully, or there has been intent to deceive in relation to a matter which gives rise to significant risk

It would be prudent for schools and colleges to check that their health and safety policies and procedures are properly in place and that the Safety Committee meets regularly. However, like the Corporate Manslaughter Act, it should be a bugbear that members would not expect to encounter during a normal career.

The most likely danger points, as always, are asbestos and legionella and casually unsafe working practices.

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