A recent report has shown that the average fine levied for breaches in health & safety regulations has increased by 60% since guidance was issued in 2008. Where courts have heard cases involving breaches of both the HSWA and regulations fines have increased by 25%.
All of this has been said to present a clear message to employers of the need to take their responsibilities seriously or face stiffer penalties, including imprisonment in some cases.
The purpose of the changes in 2008 was to create a greater deterrent and in fact allowed for the lower courts to increase the maximum fines from £5,000 to £20,000.
This has also allowed the HSE to free up some resources previously tied up with taking cases to Crown Court; their approach often involves taking cases to the lower Magistrates courts. Here they present breaches of health & safety regulations, which are much easier to prove than cases involving the HSWA. Although the fines are potentially lower, the cases are clearer cut and the prosecution therefore much easier to obtain. Given a potential £20,000 maximum penalty this approach is hard to argue against.