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.
“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.