Elizabeth Hyde, a solicitor at Eversheds LLP, on new health and safety legislation

Careless workers, senior managers and directors face potential prison sentences for non-compliance with health and safety law, following the advent of the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008. The Act, which came into force on 16 January 2009, affects businesses and individuals involved in bakery food manufacture.

The change in law will mean that the most serious breaches of health and safety law, previously punishable with fines, may now attract custodial sentences of up to two years. Failing to comply with even the most basic health and safety laws can lead to an individual prosecution. If a manager turns a blind eye to a clear risk posed to others - for example unsecured racking - then he risks prosecution even if no accident has occurred as a result of his or her actions.

The Act also increases the maximum penalty for breaching regulations from £5,000 to £20,000 in a magistrates’ court.

Bakeries are advised to ensure that risk assessments covering issues and activities such as temperature, manual handling, lifting operations and ’back of house’ activities are suitable and sufficient and that appropriate control measures are identified to reduce or eliminate risk. Periodic reviews of all risk assessments are recommended.