Health and safety at work
A top Yorkshire business investigations lawyer has led two seminars addressing important health and safety issues, affecting local businesses and their employees.
Sarah Cleary, head of national law firm Irwin Mitchells northern regulations and investigations group and Sabeeha Khan an Associate from the same team, chaired the events at its offices in Queen Street, Leeds, and Riverside, Sheffield. The events featured presentations on the EU Working Time Regulations, Corporate Manslaughter Act and Regulatory Fire Reform Order.
The working time regulations state most workers cannot be forced to put in more than 48 hours a week, averaged over a year, unless they voluntarily opt-out by signing agreements with their employers to work longer than this, with no upper limit applying.
Health and safety experts
Ms Cleary said: "An interesting point raised during the meeting was whether travel time is included within the regulations. A lot of employers are not aware this time is incorporated in the legislation and employees out on the road could be going over their 48 hours without realising it.
"Allowing staff to work long hours, even if they request this, can lead to serious consequences for businesses, including expensive fines and compensation claims, if they have an accident as a result."
Due to come into force next year, delegates also heard how the Corporate Manslaughter Act brings radical changes to company liabilities and responsibilities for deaths in the workplace.
Health and safety solicitors
Ms Cleary said: "For a number of years now the Health and Safety Executive have been educating and warning large and small firms and the self employed about the risks of cutting corners and underestimating risks on site.
"Accidents can prove fatal and the Corporate Manslaughter Bill is currently going through Parliament. Financial penalties incurred in defending and fines imposed, if convicted in the criminal courts, will be enough to close down even the most successful companies.
"The government is tightening up the law where deaths occur at work and were predicting an increase in the number of companies prosecuted as a result. The seminar was a useful way for businesses to get up to speed with the new provisions."
The Regulatory Fire Reform Order became law on October 1 and overhauled all previous fire safety legislation. It shifts the emphasis of prevention and reducing risk away from authorities and onto employers, increasing their accountability if they fail to carry out their duties.
Ms Cleary said: "The seminar was devised to arm businesses in Yorkshire with a thorough understanding of the implications of these new pieces of legislation. They have been introduced to make working environments safer and its important bosses are aware of their responsibilities and the dangers they, their staff and their businesses face, if they fail to comply."