Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act: Offences by a Body Corporate

Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act deals with the offences that a body corporate, such as an organisation or a company, may commit. If it is established that an offence has been committed by a body corporate, it may be proven that the offence was carried out with the consent, connivance or neglect of any of its officers, such as directors, managers, or secretaries. In such cases, the body corporate and the individuals involved may be held responsible and charged with the offence.

The concept of consent refers to permission granted by an individual for a particular activity to occur. For example, in the context of a body corporate, if an offence has been committed with the consent of one of its officers, it indicates that the officer had knowledge of the activity and may have played a role in facilitating it.

Connivance, on the other hand, refers to the willingness to allow or be secretly involved in an immoral or illegal activity. This implies that the officer in question may have actively assisted in committing the offence or turned a blind eye to it.

Neglect, in the legal sense, refers to the failure to care properly and may include situations where the officer ought to have been aware of certain circumstances but failed to take appropriate action. For example, if a manager fails to implement adequate safety measures, resulting in an accident, they may be charged with neglect.

Section 37 ensures that body corporates and their officers are held accountable for their actions. By making it possible to charge and convict individuals who have acted with consent, connivance, or neglect, the legislation is a deterrent against illegal or immoral activities carried out by body corporates.

Prosecutions under Section 37

The following is a list of incidents and their sentences concerning section 37 breaches.

  • In January 2015, Pyranha Mouldings was convicted of corporate manslaughter. The technical director was convicted of two charges of breaching s.37 following the death of a worker trapped in an industrial oven.
  • In November 2018, a waste and recycling company and its director were fined £700,000 and sentenced to eight months imprisonment respectively, after a worker was killed in a baling machine due to lack of proper guarding.
  • In February 2019, a commercial vehicle repair company and its managing director were fined £50,000 plus £22,000 costs under s.2 of HSWA. The managing director was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, after a worker was fatally crushed by a bus due to the company’s failure to plan and organise the lifting of the bus in a way which ensured workers’ safety.
  • In August 2019, Clancy Dowra Ltd was fined £1 million. Daniel Walsh, the site supervisor, was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months following the death of a worker who was struck by an excavator due to the company’s failure to ensure the safety of employees.
  • In November 2019, a solar panel company was fined £80,000. Its director was sentenced to carry out 200 hours of unpaid community work and ordered to pay £15,000 costs after a worker fell seven meters through a fragile roof ridge panel and died while installing solar panels.
  • The director of a building company was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment under s.7 of HSWA after an employee was killed when he was pinned against a wall by an excavator bucket due to the director’s failure to carry out a sufficient risk assessment and operate the machine without appropriate training or certification.
  • In February 2020, Imtiaz Hussain, the former director of a construction company, was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment, suspended for 2 years and 200 hours’ unpaid community work under s.22 of HSWA for multiple health and safety failings, including unsafe work at height, resulting in prohibition and improvement notices being issued during HSE site inspections.
  • In September 2020, Wembley Scaffolding Services Ltd was fined £7860 plus £8900 costs. Its director was fined £1000 plus £11,000 costs and sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment suspended for one year after a worker was killed when a scaffold collapsed.
  • In November 2020, Peter Wegg, the sole director of Lyng Developers Ltd, was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for 15 months and ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work under s.37 of HSWA. The company was contracted to excavate a disused railway track. Its failure to take measures to prevent the collapse of excavated walls caused substantial damage to adjoining properties. It exposed residents and children to the risk of being buried by the collapsing walls.
  • Also, in November 2020, Mark Bucknall was fined £1760 plus £2000 costs plus a victim surcharge of £170 under s.37 of HSWA after a contractor suffered life-changing injuries in a roof fall due to lack of proper planning during roof light installation.
  • In March 2021, Cutler Bros Ltd was fined £5000. Roger Martin Cutler, the company’s director, was fined £1000 under s.37 of HSWA after a worker suffered severe injuries in a fall through a fragile roof light.