Corporate killing law will spark safety policy reviews

A Home Office
minister has pledged to introduce a new offence of corporate killing in the
next Parliament, which means employers will have to overhaul their whole
approach to health and safety.

Keith Bradley
claimed that the Government remains committed to the introduction of a draft
Safety Bill.

Companies could
face unlimited fines and directors could be sentenced to life imprisonment if
found liable for deaths caused by collective management failure under the
proposals.

Chris Matchan,
group HR director of Pentland Group, said a new corporate killing law would
force companies to increase health and safety planning, bud­gets and testing
significantly.

He said,
“Businesses will have to fundamentally review their approach to health and
safety. There’s a massive implication for the relationship between
managers and staff as managers will have to enforce it.

“There would
also be a mad rush for people to cover them­selves, and reassign account­ability
down to the individual employee,” he added.

Directors will
have to adopt a more hands-on role on safety, warned Sir Neville Purvis, direc­tor
general of British Safety Council.

The appointment
of a safety director and careful monitoring of performance at board level would
reduce the risk of prose­cution, Purvis said.

But it is still
unclear whether directors will be individually liable for a collective board
failing.

Juris Grinbergs,
former HR director of Littlewoods, believes that for the new law to be effec­tive
it needs to identify individu­als. “If there’s a collective responsibility it’s
easy for things to lose focus. Its objective is to improve health and safety,
and if it provides that focus, it’s got to be a step in the right direction,”
he said.

The Government
wants to replace involuntary manslaugh­ter laws, which have led to only three
convictions since they were brought in 30 years ago, despite a run of rail and
ferry dis­asters.

The Queen’s
Speech tomor­row is likely to include a draft Safety Bill that will include a
com­mitment to the corporate killing law.

By Katie Hawkins

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