UK Corporate Manslaughter Act Faces First Test

Following my previous post on fatalities in the chemical industry, it is worth remembering that the UK Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, came into force on April 6 2008.

Under this act an offence will be committed if: “A management failure by senior managers of a corporation is a substantial element in a gross breach of duty to take care, causing the death of employees or others.”

Put more simply, a manufacturer will be liable where it owes a duty to take reasonable care of its employees’ safety, and the way in which its activities have been managed or organised amounts to a gross breach of that duty, and, ultimately, causes death.

The first test case will come before the court in the new year. A director of a geotechnical survey company has been charged in relation to the death of an employee in 2008. Under the new act, companies are liable to face limitless fines and there is also the possibility of imprisonment for directors.

So the act obliges companies and individual directors to act reasonably and responsibly and effectively manage corporate health and safety. In reality, no different from the obligation we've always had. The only difference now is that the penalties are much more severe if we fail to meet these obligations.

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