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Experts Warn That Hidden Health Safety Legislation Could Cause Problems

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Experts are warning that new health and safety legislation could cause serious legal and financial implications to businesses whose employees use either their own or a company owned vehicle to drive on business- with worries that SMEs may be the worst effected.

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008, which came in to effect in January 2009, will mean that any company that fails to prove they have a road risk policy and adequate procedures in place may face up to a £20,000 fine or risk a two year prison sentence if one of their employees is involved in an accident where a breach of Health & Safety occurs.

Official statistics from 2007 show that 2943 people were killed on Britain's roads, and at least a quarter of these were company employees driving on business, in comparison to 200 people who were killed whilst using machinery, highlighting that all companies who require employees to operate a vehicle must sit up and take notice.

Worryingly, it seems that many companies are still not aware of the legislation and unlike most health and safety laws, where a conviction arises as a result of death and tried in a Crown Court, offences against the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 can be heard in a Magistrates' Court with the conviction a result of only a proven breach of Health & Safety.

Nick Davies, director of reward and employment tax at Armstrong Watson, says: "I'm concerned that many businesses aren't aware of the Health & Safety (Offences) Act and the serious implications it could have on their company.

"Business owners need to be able to effectively demonstrate that they have implemented a Road Risk Policy and conduct risk assessments on all drivers they should also check driving licences and where the vehicle being driven belongs to the employee check that the vehicles are fully serviced and insured for business use. Importantly, there always needs to be an audit trail so that companies can prove these checks have taken place.

"I'm highly concerned that SMEs could be seriously affected by this legislation as they are most likely to be unaware of the changes in law and it is doubtful that they will have the structures in place to be compliant with all current legislation...

"I advise anybody who is concerned by the Health and Safety (Offences) Act to contact a reputable adviser who will be able to make recommendations as to how the company can be protected. Companies should also start taking the basic steps of making sure employees who use their own cars for business purposes have the appropriate car insurance and a clean driving licence."

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 follows the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 which legislates against companies that breached their duty of care, resulting in the death of an employee.



Notes to Editors:

Armstrong Watson is a firm of accountants, business strategists and financial advisers.

We have a network of 17 offices throughout the north of England and south west Scotland, with 35 partners and over 400 team members in a variety of areas such as: Business Enterprise Services, Business & Personal Tax, VAT, Corporate Services, Corporate Finance, Payroll, Insolvency & Corporate Recovery, Agriculture, Computer Solutions and Office Equipment, Financial Planning and Wealth Management.

Armstrong Watson is registered to carry out audit work by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

Armstrong Watson is ranked as the UK's 26th largest accountancy firm in Accountancy Age's top 50 accountancy firms. (2008)

Visit our website at www.armstrongwatson.co.uk