The Courts are taking a hard-line approach against employers who breach health and safety laws. 

In several cases the Courts have increased the amount of fines and reparation ordered against employees who breach the Act by 200 percent.

In one case a company was been ordered to pay nearly $200,000 in fines and reparation for workplace safety breaches that resulted in an employee losing his legs. The punishment compares to a similar accident that occurred in 2006, where the courts only ordered $40,000 in fines and reparation against a different employer.

The increase is in line with other cases such as the fine imposed on a construction company which increased from $5,000 to $50,000 following an accident in which an employee of the contractor was injured by falling off some wooden scaffolding at a building site. A food manufacturer also had a fine increased from $15,000 to $40,000 in relation to an accident in which an employee’s arm became caught in the mechanism of a conveyor belt.

Maximum fines were increased substantially back in 2003, however in practice the Courts were slow to impose any significant increase in fines.  That has now changed.

The maximum fine for serious harm where it was known that serious harm was reasonably likely to occur is $500,000 and the maximum fine for other offences is $250,000.

If you are an employer or employee and would like to discuss your obligations and rights under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, please call Alan Knowsley for a relaxed and confidential initial chat.