Protecting against the risk of corporate manslaughter

Posted on 25 Jun 2013 by The Manufacturer

The number of companies prosecuted for corporate manslaughter is rising according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

With legislation getting tougher and fines running into hundreds of thousands, Michelle Di Gioia, Associate in the Dispute Resolution Team at Gardner Leader solicitors, offers advice on protecting against the risk of corporate manslaughter.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that manufacturing accounted for a large number of deaths between 2011 and 2012. A total of 31 people lost their lives while working in manufacturing and over 17,000 injuries were reported.

This proves what many already know – that it’s a high risk sector.  But companies can’t afford to be complacent especially since the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.  Since July last year five companies have been charged and a further 56 new cases are in the legal pipeline.

Last year Lion Steel was fined £480,000 for corporate manslaughter when an employee fell through a skylight.  More recently,  June this year, Sartex Quilts & Textiles Ltd was fined £50,000 after inspectors found that its machines were unsafe, and chocolate maker Ashbury Chocolates Ltd was fined £5,000 after an employee’s finger was severed whilst cleaning a depositor.

To avoid a breach in health and safety or even corporate manslaughter, companies are advised to drive  health and safety from the top.  Have a board member with specific responsibility for health and safety so it’s at the core of all company decisions. Decisions should include:

  • Discuss risk with staff and keep a record of employees’ training.
  • Ensure risk assessments are recorded, understood and applied.
  • Retain records of inspection and maintenance of equipment for a minimum of three years.
  • Have an audit trail showing that policies are followed and taken seriously.
  • Provide occupational health services if appropriate to your staff’s work.
  • Record the issuing of personal protective equipment (PPE). If employees fail to use it,  address it with them and record these conversations.
  • Implement a procedure to follow should a serious or fatal accident occur on your premises.  If it’s a minor accident, make recommendations for change to minimise future risks.
  • Arrange adequate insurance cover and offer staff occupational health services

Implementing these steps will reduce the risk of an accident as well as ensure you have vital evidence to hand should you be faced with legal proceedings.