Responsibility for the work environment or criminal liability?

Employers have a responsibility for the work environment - as an employer, you should be proactive and take measures to eliminate or reduce risks of ill health and accidents at work so that the working environment is good. Criminal liability may also be applicable if an accident has occurred. Therefore, work environment responsibility is about preventive measures, while criminal liability is about holding someone accountable after something has happened.

Offenses according to the Work Environment Act

Work environment responsibility usually lies with a legal person (the company that is the employer), but it can be an individual if, for example, they run their own business as a sole proprietorship. The general obligations that employers have according to the Work Environment Act and the regulations on systematic work environment management are not directly subject to criminal penalties, so there are no direct legal consequences if they are not followed. However, the Work Environment Authority can decide on orders or prohibitions for those who do not comply with the regulations in the Work Environment Act. Orders can also be accompanied by fines. A person who violated such a prohibition or order can be fined or sentenced to imprisonment for up to one year. A person who does not comply with rules prohibiting the employment of minors, etc. can also be fined. Sanction fees can be imposed for violations.

Offenses according to the Criminal Code

Employers can also be convicted of work environment offenses under the Criminal Code for the crimes of causing someone's death, causing bodily harm, and creating danger to others if someone intentionally or negligently disregards what they are obligated to do according to the Work Environment Act to prevent ill health or accidents. The punishment depends on the crime committed and the circumstances of the case, ranging from fines to six years' imprisonment. This is the criminal liability, and an individual person is responsible. It is the court that determines the responsible party in a criminal case.

Can decisions under the Work Environment Act be appealed?

Some penalties imposed under the Work Environment Act can be appealed to the administrative court. Even safety representatives have the right to appeal decisions in order to safeguard the interests of the employees. Decisions on work environment offenses under the Criminal Code are appealed to the court of appeals as a regular criminal case.

In summary

  • Employers who violate occupational safety and health laws can be fined, receive orders, or face imprisonment. Criminal liability applies in case of accidents, while occupational safety responsibility involves preventive measures.
  • Companies are usually held responsible, but individual entrepreneurs can also be held accountable. The Swedish Work Environment Authority can issue orders that must be followed, otherwise fines or sanction fees can be imposed.
  • Occupational safety crimes under the Penal Code, such as causing someone's death or bodily harm, can result in fines or up to six years of imprisonment, depending on the seriousness of the crime.
  • Companies can receive corporate fines for occupational safety crimes, ranging from SEK 5,000 to 10 million. Violation of orders or prohibitions can lead to fines or imprisonment for up to one year. Some decisions can be appealed to the administrative court.

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