The government has indicated it will support a Private Member’s Bill to hold directors liable for deaths at work, according to the MP behind the proposals.
This would mark a U-turn in government policy, as its own plans for corporate killing legislation would not hold individual directors responsible for health and safety failures at work.
MP Stephen Hepburn’s Health and Safety (Directors Duties) Bill would put a general duty on all company directors and large companies to appoint a director at board level to be responsible for health and safety.
In the past year, 235 workers were killed at work (a 4% rise on 2003), while more than 30,000 suffered serious injuries (up 9%).
Under the bill, companies would not just face fines, but the prospect of custodial sentences for directors where serious health and safety breaches or negligence at work results in death.
Hepburn told Personnel Today that minister for work Jane Kennedy was “very supportive in principle”. He said that he had “a lot of support from all parties” and fully expected a successful vote at its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday.
The CBI accepted that reckless directors should be punished, but warned that executives couldn’t be expected to take personal responsibility for every single decision on every single day.
The employers group added that any offence should applied equally to senior management in the public sector as to those in private sector. In its present form the bill will only apply to those who are ‘company directors’.
The Department for Work and Pensions said it would not be appropriate to comment until after the Bill’s second reading.
HSE on the road
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) will be carrying out a blitz of construction sites across the UK in March as part of a nationwide initiative to tackle serious work-related ill health.
‘Healthy Handling 2005’ is aimed at clients, designers, planning supervisors and contractors in the construction industry, and is targeting poor work practices that can cause long-term disability and could end careers.