New legislation which will give courts greater sentencing powers over those who disobey health and safety regulations has been welcomed.

Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) ministers have praised the move which comes under the new Health and Safety Offences Act 2008.

The legislation allows the lower courts to give out higher penalties to those flouting the law, with an increase from £5,000 to £20,000.

DWP minister Lord McKenzie said it is generally accepted the level of fines for some offences is too low.

"These changes will ensure sentences can now be more easily set at a level to deter businesses that do not take their health and safety management responsibilities seriously," he added.

Imprisonment will also be an option for the courts to impose on those who are convicted of breaching legislation in a serious way.

Today it was reported a haulage company was fined £5,000 for breaking health and safety rules when a driver fell from his tanker and died.