Croner's Nasar Farooq explains why H&S compliance will keep firms on the right side of a controversial law
Q What impact will the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act have on me?
A The new Act, which comes into force on April 6, is different from previous laws in the sense that it goes for the organisation as a whole, rather than one key individual. If a company's gross failure in management results in a person's death, the company could face an unlimited fine, a publicity order that means it has to publicise the details of its offence, and a remedial order, which requires the business to address all failures that led to the death.
The Act applies across the public, private and third sectors and includes trades unions and even partnerships. But individual directors can still be prosecuted under the 1974 Health & Safety (H&S) legislation, so this closes a loophole that allowed companies with complex management structures to escape prosecution.
Directors should ensure that the company's risk management strategy is up-to-date and documented, and they should make sure they have a director responsible for H&S, along with competent assistants to keep safety procedures current, apply appropriate training, consult with employees and oversee regular maintenance checks of plant and equipment. As a back-up measure, it also makes sense to make sure that the company is properly insured.
It may seem onerous, but if companies are complying with existing H&S regulations, training and risk assessment, they should be ok. Directors have always been in a position to influence the H&S culture, but not all directors have paid close attention to it, seeing it as a necessary evil, a cost rather than an investment.
The Act puts health and safety back on the boardroom agenda and, in creating a positive workplace culture, could benefit businesses by leading to lower accident rates, better employee morale, improved reputation and fewer hidden insurance costs.
Joanna Higgins spoke to Nasar Farooq