Adopting statutory health and safety duties for directors would save lives

A large number of lives could be saved every year if statutory legal health and safety duties for directors were adopted, according to a new report.

Commissioned by construction union Ucatt and written by the Centre for Corporate Accountability, the report criticised the “complete failure of the voluntary approach to reducing injuries and fatalities in the workplace”.

It coincides with the publicationof voluntary guidance for all directors on safety in the workplace, published jointly by the Institute of Directors and the Health and Safety Commission.

The report revealed that where statutory legal health and safety duties for directors were adopted, major improvements are achieved, including a 25% reduction in accidents.

It was particularly damning of the construction industry showing that from 2002-03 – 2006-07, 347 construction workers were killed but just 13 directors/senior managers were prosecuted.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of Ucatt, said: “This damning report demonstrates the government’s failure to introduce statutory legal duties forcing directors to take responsibility for their company’s health and safety policies, is literally costing workers their lives.”

Miles Templeman, director general of the IoD said: “The Institute of Directors (IoD) believes that it’s vital that board members lead the approach of their organisation to health and safety, whatever the environment they operate in.

“Too often health and safety are words used as excuses by organisations that have not developed their thinking in this area. The IoD hopes that the new guidance can help organisations integrate health and safety into business decisions in an appropriate way, not one that stifles appropriate activity,” he added.

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