Health & Safety Defence

The Health and Safety at Work  Act 1974 creates a duty on employers to ensure the safety of their employees. 

It has been decided by the government to give power to the Health and Safety Executive and local authority to prosecute criminal offences in the criminal courts against individuals and companies for breaches of the Act. Regulations exist for virtually every type of activity carried out in business by employees and breaches of those regulations suspect to criminal proceedings.

Often when accidents occur at work the Health and Safety Executive and their inspectors get involved to try to discover what has happened. However at some point it becomes a criminal investigation and it is essential that clients understand when that point arises.  Some of our clients have cooperated in an investigation and said things carelessly against their interests and as a result the prosecution are led to believe that their prosecution is stronger than it really is.  It is no fun being prosecuted even if you are innocent.It is essential in these investigations that clients receive early advice from a solicitor who knows about this subject. 

John Ellwood  is a specialist defence solicitor in Health and Safety cases.  He is accredited to attend for interviews carried out by the Health and Safety Executive or the local authority.  He is not a specialist adviser as to practice and procedures in respect of Health and Safety matters.   That work is done by independent consultants who assist clients in carrying out risk assessments etc; 

However,  when the case reaches the investigation stage it is vital to take advice quickly.

Here are a few examples of cases the firm has handled:

  1. Investigation into a failure to provide a risk assessment and policy document in respect of asbestos.
  2. Failure to provide a proper system of working for men on a roof when one fell off.
  3. Giving permission to dump dangerous rubbish and then instructing employees to move it.


In all the above cases the clients were sensible enough to instruct us at an early stage and we were therefore able to assist in providing a proper explanation as to what had happened.  By way of explanation the same facts can be put forward in different ways:

  1. “I was not there I do not know what happened.  He knows better than to walk near the edge of a roof.”
  2. “Before the job started I assessed the risks involved and carried out a risk assessment.  I provided a safe system of working and instructed my senior foreman to provide this information to my staff and I ensured that he did.”


Guess which is the best explanation?

Our team is  hugely experienced, capable and have an outstanding track record of success. If you are involved in a Health & Safety case, please contact our Regulatory & White Collar Crime defence team as soon as possible. 


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