The warnings are part of a wider Government drive to reduce workplace deaths and major injury accidents by 10%, the rate of work related ill-health by 20% and cut working days lost due to health and safety failure by 30% by 2010.
Fleet managers have been told the proposals will see the road classed as a workplace for their company car drivers. A Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions spokesman said: 'Any work-related activity would be covered by the new targets. If you're travelling between different places of work, the same responsibility will apply.'
Lawbreakers will face prison for 'most' offences, while fines in the lower courts will be increased from £5,000 to £20,000. Other penalties will be considered such as fines linked to turnover, prohibition of bonuses or managers suspended without pay.
Ministers intend to use legislation to assign health and safety responsibility to a named director or 'responsible person of similar status'. There will also be a 'ready reckoner', with case studies showing how much businesses can save by addressing health and safety issues, plus grants will be available to encourage small firms to invest more in risk management.
Announcing the plans, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said: 'Businesses must never ignore their responsibilities and the rights of their workers.'