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New regulations, offences and responsibilities – what do you and your organisation need to know?

18 August 2022

2020 saw the introduction of the emergency Coronavirus Act and a series of 'lockdown laws', shadowed by a quiet period and a dip in new legislation. This spring, Government started to get tough and we have already seen a series of new legislation creating offences and additional duties and requirements imposed on individuals as well as companies.

Driving offences – Use of a mobile phone and causing serious injury by careless driving

Drivers, in particular professional drivers and employers of individuals who spend significant time on the road must pay careful attention to amendments to the Road Traffic Act 1998.

It is well known and has been the case since 1986 that use of a mobile phone whilst driving is prohibited. However, the wording of old regulations, which prohibited an 'interactive communication' provided an element of leeway. The insertion of Section 41D of the Act has increased the scope of the offence and prevents any discretion by removing reference to an 'interactive communication function' altogether. Drivers must be warned that any use or handling of a phone, including unlocking a device, checking the time, accessing a playlist, even whilst stationary in traffic or at red lights, is prohibited under the new offence.  The implications include fines of up to £2500, endorsement of 6 penalty points and the risk of disqualification, which would be detrimental to professional drivers and their employers.

June 2022 saw the introduction of a new offence, through the Police Crime and Sentencing Act 2022, of 'causing serious injury by careless driving'. The new offence will likely result in increased prosecutions where 'below standard driving' had caused serious, but non-fatal, injuries.  Previously, where incidents of careless driving resulted in serious injury, a driver would typically only be prosecuted for careless driving, attracting a fine and penalty points.  Where the prosecution is now able to prove that driving fell below the requisite standard, a driver can be tried in either the Magistrates' or Crown Court under the new offence. If convicted of the new 'causing serious injury by careless driving' offence, individuals could face up to 2 years imprisonment and a lengthy disqualification. Given the low threshold for 'careless driving', this is definitely one to be aware of.  Even a momentary lapse of concentration could result in the loss of your licence, your employment and potentially your liberty.

The rise in potential sentences and new driving offences will no doubt cause concern for employers and professional drivers who spend hours on the road; a review of training and policies may be required to ensure drivers do not fall foul and face the consequences.

Building Safety Act 2022 and Fire Safety Act 2021

The Building Safety Bill 2022 overhauls legislation and introduces reforms following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The Act and accompanying Regulations impose greater responsibilities on key individuals, placing additional duties on those who build, plan, manage and undertake building work.

The new measures are wide-ranging, with a fundamental change being the responsibilities and new statutory roles placed on those engaged in construction and design of 'higher-risk' buildings. Regulations require those involved in construction, planning and design to demonstrate safety at every stage, enforced by powers to demand documentation, halt works and the requirement for a 'principle designer' to maintain a 'golden thread' of data regarding the safety decisions made. High-risk buildings will be overseen at every stage by a Building Safety Regulator, a role to be assumed by the Health and Safety Executive, who will closely monitor progress. Extensive enforcement powers will see individuals in contravention of the regulations liable to up to two years imprisonment.

Further legislation enacted in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy includes the Fire Safety Act 2021, imposing substantial duties on organisations who are involved in assessing and ensuring fire safety in all multi-occupancy domestic premises.  The Act ensures that all such buildings have a fire risk assessment in place, to now include the doors to individual flats, as well as external doors. The Act imposes such obligations on all Responsible Persons, which encompasses any employer within a workplace, any organisation that has control of the premises and the owner of the premises, to assess, improve and ensure fire safety in domestic premises.

Organisations involved in any stage of building works must be aware of the considerable changes and responsibilities imposed by the Building Safety Act and the Fire Safety Act, as well as have careful consideration of the impact of any secondary legislation which is expected to follow in 2023.

If you and your organisation would like to ensure a proactive response and enable the business to be prepared for any impact and potential significant consequences of breaches of the raft of 2021 and 2022 legislation may bring, DWF's experienced Crisis Management Team can help you with all aspects of Crisis Management, from crisis planning and training, through to response and recovery in the event of an incident.  Please contact us for further information.

Further Reading