The UK''s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published its first enforcement report, which names hundreds of companies, organizations and individuals convicted of health and safety crimes during 1999-2000.
The report, "Health and Safety Offences and Penalties," lists approximately 1,600 individual offenses and includes several big-name companies, as well as small firms, local authorities, hospitals and universities throughout Britain.
In addition, full details of each conviction are available on a special Web site database at www.hse-database.co.uk/prosecutions/.
Users can access this information in a number of ways, including by geographical location, type of industry, size of fine and type of work activity.
"Companies, organizations and individuals must be held accountable for their health and safety performance -- their professional reputation should depend on it," said HSE Director General Timothy Walker. "The convictions are there for everyone to see, including the would-be customers, contractors, investors, employees and insurers."
Walker said he hopes the report creates pressure for those to improve who have failed to keep workers and the public safe and healthy.
He also criticized the low general level of fines still being handed down by Britain''s court.
"Health and safety crimes cause pain and distress to victims and their families. In 1998 the Court of Appeal stated that fines for safety and health offenses were too low," said Walker. "I agree, yet since then there has been only limited progress -- with the average fine under $7,000 UK. Society has a right to expect that when a business or individual is found guilty, the penalty handed down reflects the seriousness of the offense. This is simply not happening enough."
In 1999 the HSE prosecuted 1,133 cases, involving 2,253 charges -- an increase of 9 percent and 28 percent respectively on the previous year.
Of the 2,253 cases placed before the court, only 72 led to a ''not guilty'' or ''not proven verdict.''
by Virginia Sutcliffe