Politicians back Bill to make directors liable for casualties

Senior Labour backbenchers and former ministers are backing a private member’s Bill which would see company directors held to account for negligent health and safety practices that cause injuries or fatalities.

Stephen Hepburn MP has announced his promotion of the Health and Safety (Directors Duties) Bill, which seeks to introduce positive health and safety obligations on company directors.

The Government committed itself to a corporate killing law in the Queen’s speech, but did not specifically include directors’ duties in the framework for the draft Bill.

However, the Bill would place a general duty on all company directors and large companies to appoint a director at board level to be responsible for health and safety.

Under the Bill, companies would face not just fines, but also the prospect of custodial sentences for directors where serious health and safety breaches or negligence has resulted in death.

Business is fighting any extension of the Bill to individual executives, but unions supporting the Bill claim that without individual liability, health and safety records will not improve.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of construction industry union Ucatt, said: “No industrial sector has suffered as great a loss of life as the construction industry, butæyear afteræyear, the negligence of those directly responsible has gone unpunished.

“This Bill will bring about an overnight change of culture in workplace health and safety, not only in construction, but right across all industrial sectors’.”

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