Health and safety directors lack awareness of responsibilities

Nearly half of senior managers and company directors do not have an up-to-date understanding of their health and safety-related duties and responsibilities, despite the arrival next month of the government’s long-awaited Corporate Manslaughter Act.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act comes into force in April. Yet, according to a poll of 130 companies by Norwich Union Risk Services (NURS), more than four in 10 were unable to demonstrate that their nominated director or board member with responsibility for health and safety had any formally recognised health and safety qualifications.

The new act makes it clear that employers should ensure directors only take on health and safety management responsibilities if they are competent to do so, and being able to show directors are competent is likely to be a key defence that companies can use in the event of any court action against them.

John Phillips, training and consultancy manager for NURS, said: “Our research supports anecdotal evidence from the experience of our health and safety consultants that some company directors and senior managers may well be failing to take health and safety seriously.”

He cited cost issues, a lack of time or simply health and safety being seen as a low priority as contributing factors to such behaviour.

“Time and money may be short for many companies but in fact, good health and safety management can avoid substantial costs and save money and time in the long run,” he stressed.

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