The UK’s health and safety laws are designed to help businesses minimise risk of injury to people from business activities. Failing to comply with health and safety laws can result in injury or death.  Reputational damage and significant financial consequences can follow including lost productivity and business interruption due to investigations, HSE investigation costs which get billed to the business, court imposed fines – which are directly related to business turnover, increased insurance premiums and civil damages to injured parties.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a new light on the importance of safety across all business sectors. Many businesses have had to adapt their operations to ensure trading is conducted safely. The HSE announced in November 2020 that it was conducting spot checks to ensure businesses are COVID-secure. They continue to do so. Naturally, they are treating COVID-19 in the same way as they would any other risk to safety and health. Any measures put in place by a business should be in line with Government guidance. Failure to comply with any spot check could lead to enforcement action. Should the HSE inspector identify COVID-19 compliance issues, they can issue guidance, stop the business' operations and/or take enforcement action including prosecution where required. Please see our recent blog; HSE spot inspections – what do you need to know?

In addition to injury and tangible financial implications, getting it wrong can lead to director imprisonment and reputational damage – both of which can inflict lasting damage that can lead to the collapse of the business.

So when considering operational risk, all businesses should consider health and safety compliance as essential to the future health of colleagues and the business itself. A commitment to health and safety should help avoid incidents in the first place and, if something does go wrong, control and mitigate the legal ramifications and reputational damage that will inevitably follow.

All businesses should know what their legal obligations are, devise a plan to meet those and review as necessary – including how to manage safety obligations in the face of a pandemic. View our video here and download our App – Health & Safety by Brodies – which has checklists to help you deal with an incident, handy guides and access to health & safety updates.


Victoria Anderson

Senior Associate