Many company directors may not be aware that they have potential personal liability for health and safety breaches.
Section 37 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 provides that where a body corporate commits an offence with the consent or convinced of, or is attributable to the neglect of a director, manager, secretary or similar officer, that person can face personal liability.
The number of prosecutions of directors increased in 2017, up on the number in 2016. In 2017 there were 40 directors successfully prosecuted and 6 were convicted of corporate manslaughter on a personal basis.
Of the 46 convicted, 7 faced a fine at an average of £8,022. Where a custodial sentence was imposed, 17 of the directors had a suspended prison sentence and 17 received an immediate custodial sentence for an average of 21 months.
Since the Memorandum of Understanding between the CQC and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the CQC will prosecute cases which arise under the Health and Social Care Act. Although the CQC has been pursuing this role, care homes can still face health and safety prosecutions by the HSE. An example of such a prosecution would be an injury to a maintenance man as a result of a health and safety breach.
In the light of the important new guidance from the Sentencing Council on the credit to be given for an early admission of liability, advice must obviously be sought at an early stage if prosecution is in contemplation.