Law targeting workplace deaths comes into force today

06-04-2008

Law targeting workplace deaths comes into force today
The new corporate manslaughter law comes into force today, which lawmakers hope will lead to more prosecutions.

The new Act holds employers accountable for the actions and decisions of their senior managers, rather than one single individual.

Failure to protect employees could lead to fines of up to ten per cent of a company's annual turnover.

Under the previous law, one person, generally the director of the company, had to be personally responsible for a workplace death before the organisation could be convicted.

This made prosecuting cases difficult, particularly in large businesses where several people were jointly responsible for safety of employees.

Tony Woodley joint general secretary of Unite, said: "Although it does create a new homicide offence that should make it easier to prosecute companies, individual directors or senior managers will still not be held responsible for health and safety failures that result in the death of either their employees or members of the public.

"We believe that individuals found guilty of gross breaches that result in people's unlawful death need to face stiffer personal penalties including imprisonment, larger fines and disqualification."

The Forum of Private Businesses (FPB) warned the transport industry would be particularly affected by the new law. "Because of the relatively high instances of road fatalities, business owners in the transport industry – and those who provide company cars – should make sure their employees are fully aware of health and safety best practice," said the FPB's policy representative, Matt Goodman.

"The Corporate Manslaughter Act means that they must establish clear health and safety procedures, and monitor them, or face heavy fines and public censure," Mr Goodman added.

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