Letters

This week’s letters

Letter of the week
One person can’t be singled out

I am responding to your front page article (News, 19 June) on the issue of
corporate killing.

I have always felt concerned that individual managers or directors should or
could be expected to carry the can for fatality or serious injury in the
workplace. While a business should take responsibility for what happens on a
health and safety front, surely it would be more appropriate and, indeed, fair
for joint acceptance of responsibility to be taken rather than putting the
pressure on one person.

One could almost argue that pointing the finger at one employee, whatever
their level, could spark off a host of other health and safety or stress issues
arising from their feelings of guilt about whatever had happened in the first
place.

Naturally, we all need to have good health and safety procedures and
policies in place, and everyone should be made aware of these and their
responsibilities regarding health and safety, as well as what the employers’
undertakings will be. However, if individuals will be made to be accountable
for serious accidents, would this not encourage people to steer away from being
responsible employees, for fear of being "put in the frame"?

If the policy is set and agreed at senior level, then that group of
individuals ought to be held accountable for what happens, as they would in
other situations – this is taking responsibility – not pointing the finger at
one person.

Ayshea Christian
HR manager, Lovewell Blake Chartered Accountants

Senior staff must be accountable

I recognise your concern that accidents are sometimes complex events that
cannot easily be attributable to the action or inaction of a single person
(Leader, 19 June).

However, it cannot be right that large complex organisations where it is
difficult to identify "the controlling mind" are less likely to be
prosecuted for causing death than smaller companies.

The top management of organisations must give health and safety the same
status as other aspects of their operations and be held accountable as such.
Where an organisation causes death, the chief executive officer should, in the
first instance, be held accountable. If this means that individual officers are
fined or imprisoned, then so be it.

Manslaughter arising out of a failure to manage health and safety is hard
crime and should be treated as such.

Eric Letherman
Health & Safety adviser
Via e-mail

Low membership is due to apathy

Further to your front-page article Employers want local LSC role (News, 12
June), I note that employer bodies and the CIPD are calling for more employers
to sit on Learning and Skills Councils.

I am a member of the Devon and Cornwall LSC, which has had to actively
"hunt" applications from employer representatives. It is employers’
apathy and failure to support their representatives that has led to low
representation on the LSCs.

These roles are unpaid and require a great deal of time and commitment from
members, and understanding and support from the employers themselves.

Debbie Grosvenor
Member Devon and Cornwall LSC

Older workers are vital to workplace

According to Dr Wolfgang Lutz, in Why Immigration isn’t working (Features, 5
June), "an ageing labour force is not particularly innovative or
productive".

Research that we commissioned clearly illustrates that this is not the case.

Four in five people, for example, think employing older people is good for a
company’s image.

Qualities such as politeness, professionalism and experience are identified
as those most important for customer service positions and also those most
likely to be demonstrated by older people.

Our research found strong evidence to refute the myth that "you can’t
teach an old dog new tricks". There is overwhelming agreement (89 per
cent) that retraining is not a problem.

As quoted in your feature, the most obvious shortage across Europe is for
computer engineers, an area typically associated with the young. Yet research
carried out by the EFA and silicon.com found that 88 per cent of people in the
IT sector agree that mixed-age teams work better than those comprised solely of
younger workers.

Let us hope that in time the issue of a flexible approach to the employment,
not just of older people, but of all those sectors of society that are often
marginalised, will no longer be one for debate, but will be accepted as
necessary, beneficial and desirable.

Denis Walker
CEO FiftyOn.co.ukncern.

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