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Corporate Manslaughter – a firm H&S approach is essential

Any good employer knows that their most valuable resource is their people – and puts due care and attention into looking after them. This doesn’t just mean making sure they are treated with respect, challenged and fulfilled in their role, with development prospects and an appropriate reward system (although that is a big part of it), but also making sure they are safe, and that they go home in the same condition as they arrived in.

Of course, there is a raft of business Health & Safety legislation that we all need to comply with. Failing to do so can have serious and sometimes tragic consequences, and where there are serious management failings that result in the death of an employee, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (2007) comes into effect.

Prior to the Act it was possible for a company to be prosecuted for a wide range of criminal offences, including the common law offence of gross negligence manslaughter. However, in order for the company to be guilty of the offence, it was also necessary for a senior individual who could be said to embody the company (also known as a ‘controlling mind’) to be guilty of the offence.

Under the 2007 Act, the focus shifted from pursuing an individual failing to a broader failure of management. A offence is committed if the way an organisation manages or organises its activities:

  • caused a person’s death;
  • amounted to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the victim; and
  • senior management played a substantial part in the breach.

Penalties include unlimited fines, remedial and publicity orders, even prison. Not to mention the emotional issues that would undoubtedly go hand in hand with feeling that you had somehow contributed to the death of an employee – whether by willful or unwitting neglect.

I suppose this is one of those things that we all think ‘will never happen to me’. But the fact of the matter is that it is often the individuals with that mind set who it does happen to. Taking a fastidious approach to Health & Safety is one of the most important things a company must do for its employees.

The problem is that many employers are put off taking a pro-active approach as they feel it is overly complicated. However, with the right advice and support it is actually quite straightforward. You can find more information on what a company needs to do to protect the health, safety and welfare of your employees here.

For further guidance on how to implement a simple but effective Health & Safety Management strategy for your business contact us on 01229 615 280 or email us at for a FREE consultation.

“There is evidence to suggest that good HR practice and people management in SMEs are key factors in strong business performance and can lead to increased productivity.”

- CIPD people Skills Project 2017


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