THE SPOTLIGHT on employers to ensure workplace safety has intensified following the implementation of a new corporate manslaughter law, according to partner Paul Schofield.

The new corporate manslaughter offence has been created under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, to make it easier to prosecute companies accused of causing death due to their negligence.

Under the new UK-wide legislation, if found guilty, companies are facing fines of up to 10 per cent of turnover or more, in the most serious cases. In 2006 and 2007, 241 people died at work.

It has also been proposed by the Sentencing Advisory Panel that any major national company found guilty of corporate manslaughter should be forced to publicly name and shame themselves in media adverts.

Previously an organisation could only be prosecuted if the crown could identify, prosecute and secure the conviction of an individual – a director or company controller – for gross negligence manslaughter.

Paul Schofield, head of Farleys’ Special Casework Unit, said: “Historically many corporate manslaughter prosecutions have failed or not been even brought, particularly ones against larger companies, as it was hard to identify the person or persons responsible.

The Government hopes that the change in the law will increase the amount of successful prosecutions as an individual no longer needs to be identified, however the actual implementation of the law may prove more difficult as a conviction could occur in circumstances that many would regard as a terrible but unfortunate accident.

Therefore the move by the Sentencing Advisory Panel to suggest that major national companies, who are found guilty, are to be forced to publicly name and shame themselves in media adverts is quite a controversial one.

Employers need to ensure that their health and safety procedures are of the highest standard, and that all senior managers are trained adequately to ensure employee safety. Those that choose to ignore health and safety laws must be prepared to face the consequences – both financially and emotionally.”

Company officials can still be prosecuted personally under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The new Act will, for the first time, make Government bodies liable for prosecution by lifting their Crown immunity.

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