Health & Safety

Managing and minimising Health & Safety risks

That Health & Safety is a highly regulated area is well known. Less well known, but of crucial importance, is that this regulation can impose criminal liability on an organisation without any proof of intent. This means that even conscientious businesses can be successfully prosecuted. Much of the legislation in this area also impacts directly on directors. Prosecutions of individuals by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have increased by 400 percent in the last five years.

The ambit of this regulation is steadily increasing. From October 2012, a new costs recovery scheme will levy charges for intervention by the HSE where there has been ‘material breach’ of Health & Safety laws. And it is not just financial penalties that can cause damage. Significant reputational risks can attach to Health & Safety matters. For example, in Corporate Manslaughter cases a fine can be accompanied by a publicity order that forces an organisation to publish the offence, the conviction, and the fine. 

How we can help

Our team assists a range of clients, across a variety of business sectors, in assessing risks and developing Health & Safety policies and procedures. When required, we advise our clients during investigations by the Police, HSE or local authorities, including representation in court proceedings. We regularly appear before the Criminal Courts, Civil Courts, Coroners’ Courts and Tribunals.

We are available 24 hours a day. This recognises the fact that the management of an incident’s immediate aftermath is crucially important – frequently influencing the decision to enforce and the manner of enforcement. Our round-the-clock availability also means we are ready to assist international organisations. With offices in Europe, the US and Asia we are equipped to deal with enquiries across time zones.

We offer a range of training packages in this area, and regularly work with in-house teams and boards of directors on skills development programmes. A particular specialism lies in assisting high-profile owner-managed businesses (particularly those with a significant public reputation) to assess their level of risk.

Parent companies are often keen to minimise the impact on them of any breach by a subsidiary organisation. Our specialist Reputation Management team works alongside us before, during and after any adverse publicity to help clients minimise possible damage to this core asset. Withers also has a market-leading practice focused on senior executives, and we work closely with client organisations to protect their directors and officers from direct prosecution.

"Valued, accurate and professional advice” Legal 500 2011

Recent work in this area includes:

Health & safety

  • Advising a sub-contractor on Health and Safety aspects arising from the construction of The Shard.
  • Defending a global retailer on a prosecution surrounding alleged failures in flooring and footwear within the workplace.
  • Advising a range of pharmaceutical/manufacturing and construction companies on accident investigation procedures.
  • Advising a leading civil engineering company on an accident involving forklift trucks.
  • Advising a demolition company on a fatality in the workplace.
  • Advising a charity on its policies and procedures for work at height.
  • Defending the director of a waste management company on charges of illegal exportation of waste to Brazil in breach of health and environmental laws. This case was described by the Environmental Agency as the largest brought to date under the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007.

Product safety

  • Defending a supplier of commercial matting on allegations of defects.
  • Defending the manager of a leisure centre on allegations of failure to comply with the asbestos regulations.

Fire safety

  • Defending a surveyor for alleged breaches of the Regulatory Reform (fire safety) Order 2005.
  • Guiding a property developer through an interview under caution for alleged breaches of fire safety.

Training packages offered

  • Accident investigations.
  • Corporate Manslaughter legislation.
  • Responsibilities of directors for Health & Safety.
  • Management of contractors under Health & Safety laws.
  • We also develop bespoke sessions depending on specific requirements and can deliver these in any preferred method – hosted at our offices, in-house with your team or online.  

"Peers note Anne Davies is 'very sensible, straightforward, knowledgeable and easy to work with', while clients comment on her excellent training."


"First-rate legal and analytical knowledge...ability to handle difficult claims".


Chambers & Partners 2012


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