The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has called the introduction of the Health and Safety Offences Act "a momentous day for health and safety in the workplace".

Under the act, brought into force today (January 16th), health and safety offences could be punishable by imprisonment.

In addition, the maximum fine from the Magistrates Court for those found guilty of breaching regulations will be £20,000, whereas previously it was £5,000.

Commenting on the new penalties for health and safety breaches, Ray Hurst, IOSH’s immediate past president, said: "Rogue employers shouldn’t escape with meagre fines for serious health and safety offences that can needlessly destroy people’s lives – we strongly support the need for penalties that reflect the gravity of the failures involved."

Brian Nimick, chief executive of the British Safety Council said that the repercussions for committing health and safety offences should "act as a deterrent and increase awareness of the need to adequately train and protect workers".