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Criminal and civil law

As an employer, if someone has an accident in your workplace or been made ill, one or both of the following could happen:

  • A health and safety regulator could take action against you under criminal law.
  • The person injured or made ill could make a claim for damages against you under civil law.

Criminal law

The Health and Safety at Work Act and the regulations under it are criminal law and if you do not comply you’ll normally be committing a criminal offence.

The act is enforced mainly by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities who can take action against you.

To comply with the act and regulations, you must control the risks in your workplace and keep on top of how you do it. For basic information on how to do this, go to Health and safety made simple.

Civil law

Under civil law if someone is injured or made ill, either intentionally or by negligence they can make a claim against you.

A court may award money (‘damages’) to them to compensate them for the pain and suffering caused.

To prove that you have been negligent the person claiming needs to show:

  • a duty of care was owed by you - that they were acting in the course of their employment
  • you acted in breach of that duty by not doing everything that was reasonable to prevent foreseeable harm
  • the breach led directly to the injury or illness Insurance

You’ll probably need employers’ liability insurance to insure against liability for injury or disease to your employees because of their work.

Updated 2019-09-24