Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
May 21, 2012

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Signs of shift in prosecution policy from employees to those at the top

There has been a sharp drop in the number of prosecutions of employees under section 7 of the HSWA in the last five or six years, according to figures collated by the HSE from its prosecutions database.

The statistics, which, the HSE underlines, may not be 100-per-cent accurate, were provided for Lee Hughes, an associate solicitor at Pannone, after he made an inquiry under the Freedom of Information Act. They show that the number of s7 prosecutions since 2000/01 peaked in 2005/06 and 2006/07, when 26 and 37 individuals were prosecuted, respectively. Since then, the numbers have tended to decline, with prosecutions in 2010/11 totalling just eight – the lowest number in the 12-year period – and 13 recorded in 2011/12.

Interestingly, the fall in s7 prosecutions has coincided with a rise in the number of senior managers and directors prosecuted under s37 of the HSWA. These figures, also reported back to Lee Hughes under the FoI Act earlier this year, showed that convictions under s37 soared from a mere five in 2005/06 to 35 in 2010/11.

The divergence in s7 and s37 prosecutions would appear to reflect a greater degree of enforcement on those at the top, as opposed to those at the bottom. Writing in his blog, Hughes commented: “This shift in focus, if there has been one, is all the more surprising when one considers that employees have a positive duty under the Act ‘to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work’.

“Those in positions of real authority do not have such a duty. Directors can only be prosecuted where an offence by their company is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to, any neglect on their part as well.”

Commenting on the figures, a TUC spokesperson said: “It is quite right that the HSE should concentrate on prosecuting those who direct the workplace as they have the primary responsibility for controlling risk. But the real issue is the overall decline in prosecutions in general and the need for more corporate responsibility, such as a specific legal duty on directors.”

Webinar: Wellbeing by numbers

Catch-up or listen again to this session:

  • Learn how to use data to shape your workplace wellbeing strategy;
  • Hear evidence of the impact that wellbeing has on productivity and bottom line;
  • Get expert advice on the challenges of implementing a data-led wellbeing strategy and how to overcome them;
  • Understand how the changing priorities and pressures of the pandemic have influenced wellbeing programmes;
  • Walk away with a health & wellbeing toolkit that will help you implement and evaluate your wellbeing strategy.

Join Westfield Health CEO, Dave Capper, Professor Jeff Breckon from the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University and Sky Wellbeing Health & Fitness Manager Alistair Hugo, now...

Safety Differently

Related Topics

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
9 years ago

I don’t understand all the rhetoric about this article!
Surely, the reason that there are more s37 prosecutions is because there is an increase in senior managers and directors that know about and are ignoring their responsibilities!
If it was the other way around, there would be an increase in s7 prosecutions – but there isn’t – is there?!
It’s a sign of the times – I totally agree with the TUC spokesperson’s comment in the last paragraph.

9 years ago

Hopefully this increase in proving Snr Management failure and pursuing prosecutions will encouarage those in charge to undertake thier responsibilities with more due dilligence.

Taking ownership for HS & W of employees should be undertaken with integrity by all persons deemed to be managing the process. Unfortunately, as can be witnessed repeatedly by incidents and subsequent prosecutions this is not aways the case in practice.

Don`t blame the monkey is apt.

9 years ago

Who appointed the monkey is the quetion we should be asking?

9 years ago

Surely the employment of a monkey implies the likelyhood of monkey type behaviour?

9 years ago

My point of reference to monkies is taken form the numerous interviews that I attended
as an IOC at HSE, where without failure the employer would deflect blame immediately to the employers lack of common sence, ability, dilligence, or over enthusiasim, keeness to progres the task etc.

Never once did I hear an apology from an employer, employees often felt guilt, often aknowledged thier failure, and obviously felt remorse for the injury to mates and or third parties.

Not so the employer?

9 years ago

Don’t act like a monkey is also apt