p Good morning,Mr hayes.
J Good morning.
P Now,Mr Hayes.Do we really need to be concerned about health and safely standards in the workplace?I thought things were improving.Surely they can't be worse?
J On the whole ,I 'd certainly agree with you .Clealy things have moved on a great deal in the recent years.But that really isn't the issue here.
P So what exactly is the issue?
J Well,quite simply,the seriousness of health and safely offences is no longer reflected in the fines handed out to companies.
P So ,in other words,the maximum fine which can be imposed by a Magitrates Court is 20,000pound.What the Health and Safety Commission has been pushing for for a very long time is unlimited fines.
P Which at the moment only the Crown Court can and out.
J Exactly ,yes ,We'd like to see a lot more cases going to the Crown Court .And this is an area where we've beed pushing for government and union support.
P But Mr Hayes,I can't really imagine that you want to put companies out of bussiness with massive fines.
J Well,in extreme cases,that's exactly what we do want,when the offence is so serious that an employee has been killed,for example ,then the employer really shouldn't stay in bussiness.Look,the real purpose of the higher fines isn't necessarily to punish offenders but to make other companies think very carefully about their health and safety practices.
P You mean make examples of offenders?
J Well,you could say that,yes ,but you must remember there are established codes of practice.By ignoring them,employers are making the workplace unsafe,and quite simply they're breaking the law.
P So,a heavy fine for a big ,high-profile company would be an ideal way of generating maximumpublicity for commission?
J Well,it would have that effect ,yes,but that's not the way it works.While ability to pay can ,on occasion,be taken into account,the size of the fines should reflect the level of neglect shown by the employer.
P Right,now just how successful are local authorrities when they take action against aompanies who break health and safety regulations ?
J Well,apart from a few cases,local authority prosecutions are generally very successful.
P Well that sounds preety encouraging,Mr Hayes.
J But not so encouraging when you consider that average penalty in nearly 1,000 cases last year was only about 1,500pounds ,now many companies spend more than 2,000ponds on photocopies alone each month,what we must have is a level of fine which will shock them into action.
P And yet,as you said earlier,health and safety satandards are improving,and i believe the number of cases against companies has actually fallen slightly in each of the last four years.
J Oh,that's correct,and i think it's clear companies are focusing increased attention on the prevention of accidents,But what hasn't changed is the fact that too many people are still being killed and injured in the workplace each year.