The new Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act marks a new dawn for corporate accountability in the UK, according to a health and safety chief.
Ray Hurst, president of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), said the new Act – which comes into force on 6 April – should serve as a deterrent to organisations that disregard health and safety and boost workplace standards.
Last year, 241 workers were killed in Britain, and there are also an estimated 1,000 work-related road traffic deaths each year. However, there have only ever been a handful of convictions under the existing corporate manslaughter laws, all involving smaller organisations.
Hurst said: “We hope the new law will prompt organisations to ensure they have strong health and safety leadership, effective systems and positive cultures.”
New research released by law firm Peninsula found that more than half of the 1,375 employers surveyed were ignorant of the new Act. Furthermore, 74% of firms were yet to review safety policies and procedures in light of the new laws.
Courts will be able to impose substantial fines and order guilty organisations to publicise their convictions. They will also be able to impose remedial orders which could include compulsory health and safety training, and possible suspension of all or part of the board.
But construction union Ucatt as called the new legislation “the dampest of damp squibs”, because it does not allow bosses whose negligence leads to the death of their workers to be sent to prison.