28.08.2007

Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH)

Law's 10-year labour has happy ending

A key piece of legislation that the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) believes will help to save the lives of workers across Great Britain has come to fruition after more than a decade of campaigning.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act finally became law on 26 July, 10 years after Labour promised it in its 1997 manifesto. And IOSH, Europe’s largest professional health and safety body, said that this will act as a driver to improve health and safety standards and also give families of victims killed through corporate negligence a greater sense of justice.

Lisa Fowlie, IOSH President, said:

“We are delighted that this important piece of legislation is now on the statute book, as it will help save lives by focusing decision-makers on the importance of health and safety. Culpable organisations that cause death through gross management failure, can expect severe fines, compulsory remedial orders and damage to their reputation if convicted.

“It’s a shame it has taken such a long time for this law to become reality. Tragically, thousands of families have lost love ones in workplace accidents over the decade it’s taken to get here. Arguably, if passed earlier, this Act could have prevented some of these deaths and if not, at least provided some sense of justice to the bereaved.

“Now we have the new Act, we must ensure everyone is fully aware of their health and safety responsibilities. That’s why IOSH has also repeatedly called for improved guidance and enforceable directors duties.”

Lisa added:

“We welcome this legal reform, though believe it could still be strengthened in some areas. For instance, we’d like to see more thought given to innovative penalties for convicted organisations, such as a requirement for lasting health and safety improvement through retraining of senior managers, use of competent health and safety advice and steps to improve health and safety culture.”

IOSH believes the offence of corporate manslaughter/homicide will:

• Address the current unsatisfactory situation in which only small firms are likely to be successfully prosecuted for causing death. The new Act will remove the need to prove that one senior individual in an organisation was grossly negligent, in order for the organisation to be prosecuted.
• Signal society’s disapproval of serious corporate failures that lead to death and to improve public confidence in the legal system.
• Give those affected by such deaths some sense of justice by seeing culpable organisations convicted of the serious offence of manslaughter or homicide.
• Provide a stronger deterrent to the minority of organisations which would otherwise disregard their health and safety responsibilities, through increased likelihood of successful prosecution and associated reputational damage.
• Improve health and safety standards by raising awareness of the importance of effective management and positive safety culture, and by making mandatory and timely remediation a part of sentencing.