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Health and safety at work: criminal and civil law

Civil law - compensation claims

Neither the Health and Safety Executive nor local authorities enforce civil law or set the rules for the conduct of civil cases.

Under civil law, if someone has been injured or made ill through your negligence as an employer, they may be able to make a compensation claim against you. You can also be found liable if someone who works for you has been negligent and caused harm to someone else.

If a claim is successful, a court may make a judgment against you, and award money (‘damages’) to compensate for the pain, losses and suffering caused. This is not the same as a conviction under criminal law.

Employers’ insurance

In most cases, employers must have employers’ liability insurance. This will enable you to meet the cost of compensation for your employees’ injuries or illness. It’s a criminal offence if you do not have it.

Your insurer can give you guidance on managing and controlling risks. They may ask you to keep certain types of evidence to show you’ve taken steps to manage the risks your work creates.

If you meet your responsibilities under health and safety law you will considerably reduce the risk of being found negligent under civil law.

Dealing with a claim

If a claim is made against you, refer it to your employers’ liability insurance provider.

Updated 2019-09-24