A new piece of legislation to come into force in January 2009 will mean restaurateurs, hoteliers and landlords could be jailed for not complying with health and safety regulations.
As part of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Health and Safety Offences Act 2008 has been put in place to raise the maximum fine operators can receive to £20k for a lower court and unlimited in a magistrates court, as well as making imprisonment an option for most offences.
Just this week Jaswinder Singh, a kebab shop owner in Wolverhampton who was found preparing food next to a dead body in a fly and rat-ridden kitchen was banned from managing any food business in the future, and ordered to pay more than £3,800 in fines and costs. If his case had been tried just three later he could have found himself facing a much heftier sentence.
The new legislation shouldn’t however have an effect on establishments that do uphold health and safety regulations, as Health and Safety Executive Chair Judith Hackitt explained: "I want to remind businesses that there are no changes to their existing legal duties and that important safeguards are in place to ensure these new powers will be used sensibly and proportionately.
"Our enforcement policy targets those who cut corners, gain commercial advantage over competitors by failing to comply with health and safety law and who put workers and the public at risk."
Previously the maximum penalty an operator could face was either £5k or £20k depending on the offence in the lower courts, and imprisonment was only given for very few offences such as breaching a licensing requirement, but now this could be the penalty for most offences.
Commenting on the new law, Chairman of the British Hospitality Association Bob Cotton said that he didn’t think the hospitality industry should be worried: “Most responsible operators already take notice of health and safety issues, so I don`t think that the additional fines will have a huge impact, except on those irresponsible few who totally disregard the regulations; if the new fines mean that they improve their health and safety procedures, so much the better.”
To find out more about the new penalties, click here.