Despite 25 convictions under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act since it received royal assent ten years ago, none have been given to a large organisation.
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, which came into force on 6 April 2008, clarifies the criminal liabilities of companies including large organisations where serious failures in the management of health and safety result in a fatality. Prosecutions will be of the corporate body and not individuals, but the liability of directors, board members or other individuals under health and safety law or general criminal law, will be unaffected. The corporate body itself and individuals can still be prosecuted for separate health and safety offences.
“No large organisation has been convicted partly because police are unfamiliar with investigating workplace accidents.” Jonathan Grimes, a partner at Kingsley Napley, was speaking after three firms, all of which were small, were convicted of corporate manslaughter offences in two separate cases in May.
Grimes said: “You have this slightly difficult situation whereby the health and safety subject matter experts (HSE) are not the ones who review the evidence with a view to considering whether there’s a case of corporate manslaughter. That’s a bit of a structural weakness that has always existed and remains a problem.
“The police officers who investigate these types of accidents are not specialists in the area of corporate manslaughter or workplace accidents. They are regular detectives whose day job is investigating offences such as murders and drug offences. I think that is a reason why there hasn’t been as much take up as might have been hoped.”
Companies and organisations should keep their health and safety management systems under review, in particular, the way in which their activities are managed and organised by senior management. Plan, Do, Check, Act achieves a balance between the systems and behavioural aspects of management. It also treats health and safety management as an integral part of good management generally, rather than as a stand-alone system.
The board should set the direction for effective health and safety management. Board members need to establish a health and safety policy that is much more than a document – it should be an integral part of your organisation’s culture, of its values and performance standards.
All board members should take the lead in ensuring the communication of health and safety duties and benefits throughout the organisation. Executive directors must develop policies to avoid health and safety problems and must respond quickly where difficulties arise or new risks are introduced; non-executives must make sure that health and safety is properly addressed.
Delivery depends on an effective management system to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of employees, customers and members of the public.
Organisations should aim to protect people by introducing management systems and practices that ensure risks are dealt with sensibly, responsibly and proportionately.
Monitoring and reporting are vital parts of a health and safety culture. Management systems must allow the board to receive both specific (eg incident-led) and routine reports on the performance of health and safety policy.
Much day-to-day health and safety information need be reported only at the time of a formal review. But only a strong system of monitoring can ensure that the formal review can proceed as planned – and that relevant events in the interim are brought to the board’s attention.
A formal boardroom review of health and safety performance is essential. It allows the board to establish whether the essential health and safety principles – strong and active leadership, worker involvement, and assessment and review – have been embedded in the organisation. It tells you whether your system is effective in managing risk and protecting people.
Organisations have a legal duty to put in place suitable arrangements to manage for health and safety. This system provides a framework to help you do that effectively, in a way that your organisation can tailor to your own circumstances.
This link takes you the health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences: Definitive Guide.