Many company directors may not be aware that they have potential personal liability for health and safety breaches.
Health and Safety at Work Act
Section 37 of the Health and 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, 40 directors were successfully prosecuted and six were convicted of corporate manslaughter on a personal basis.
Of the 46 convicted, seven faced a fine at an average of £8,022. Where a custodial sentence was imposed, 17 directors had a suspended prison sentence and 17 received an immediate custodial sentence for an average of 21 months.
What should directors do?
The issue of directors’ liability should be an important concern for all company directors.
Most will be familiar with their financial responsibilities, particularly wrongful trading, especially since the Carillion collapse. However, health and safety liabilities should not be overlooked and clearly should be a matter high on the agenda at all board meetings.
In light of the important new guidance from the Sentencing Council on the credit to be given for an early admission of liability, directors should seek advice at an early stage if prosecution is in contemplation.