Directors not called to account for health and safety breaches

On average, 28 workers are killed each year in every region of the country and thousands more are being injured, according to new research.

But the report by the T&G union and the Centre for Corporate Accountability (CCA) says that few directors have been convicted for health and safety offences and not one faced a jail sentence or disqualification following convictions during the research period, April 2002 to March 2004.

However, a managing director of a construction conmpany was given a 16-month custodial sentence last month after a court found him guilty of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. (See below for link to full story.)

Labour MP Stephen Hepburn has launched a private member’s Bill which would impose positive safety duties on directors to take ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure that their company complied with health and safety law.

It would also mean that it would be easier to hold them personally to account for existing health and safety and manslaughter offences.

The Bill would also ensure that directors are legally required to discuss and act upon workplace safety matters. Directors’ legal duties currently extend to such matters as financial probity and equal opportunities but do not include workplace safety, although the law does require workers to take safety precautions.

“Every worker should be able to expect a safe working environment,” Hepburn said.

“The law must change so that directors are clear that they have a duty to take steps to prevent death and injuries.”

The T&G and CCA examined health and safety data between April 2002 and March 2004 and found that:

  • 620 people were killed and 60,177 people suffered major injuries at the workplace
  • on average during this period, 56 workers were killed at work in every UK region (28 per year)
  • only 23 directors were convicted of health and safety offences; not one of these directors received a sentence of imprisonment
  • the only penalties imposed were fines with the average fine imposed upon convicted directors just £6,463. In some instances fines for injury have been higher than fines for deaths at work
  • not one single director was disqualified as a result of these deaths and injuries.

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