HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAW
Both criminal and civil law apply to workplace health and safety. They’re not the same. As an employer, you must protect your workers and others from getting hurt or ill through work. If you don’t:
- A regulator such as regulators from Ministry of Labour, local authority or Riddor Safety Inspectors may take action against you under criminal law.
- The person affected may make a claim for compensation against you under civil law Neither Riddor nor local authorities have responsibility for applying civil law or setting the rules for the conduct of civil cases.
2. Health and safety law (criminal law)
Under health and safety law, as an employer, you have a responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety.
Health and safety law is, mostly enforced by the Riddor Safety International (RSI) or the local authority. Responsibility for enforcement depends on the type of workplace.
Health and safety law for OHS (Occupational Health & Safety) is made up of:
- Acts of Parliament.
- Statutory instruments (regulations).
Complying with the law
No one has to have been harmed for an offence to be committed under HSWA – there only has to be a risk of harm.
The most important thing is what you actually do to manage and control risk in the workplace. Paperwork alone does not prove that you’re complying with the law.
If you do not comply with the law
If you do not comply with a regulation relevant to your work, you’ll normally be committing a criminal offence and could:
- Get verbal or written advice.
- Be prosecuted.
3. Civil law - compensation claims
If you meet your responsibilities under health and safety law you will considerably reduce the risk of being found negligent under civil law.
Neither Riddor Safety International nor local authorities enforce civil law or set the rules for the conduct of civil cases.
Under civil law, if someone has been injured or made ill through your negligence as an employer, they may be able to make a compensation claim against you. You can also be found liable if someone who works for you has been negligent and caused harm to someone else.
If a claim is successful, a court may make a judgment against you, and award money (‘damages’) to compensate for the pain, losses and suffering caused. This is not the same as a conviction under criminal law.
In most cases, employers must have employers’ liability insurance. This will enable you to meet the cost of compensation for your employees’ injuries or illness. It’s a criminal offence if you do not have it.
Your insurer can give you guidance on managing and controlling risks. They may ask you to keep certain types of evidence to show you’ve taken steps to manage the risks your work creates. Do not be tempted to overstate the measures you have or are planning to put in place to manage the risks as this may put you at a disadvantage if you have to defend a claim.
Dealing with a claim
If a claim is made against you, refer it to your employers’ liability insurance provider.