The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is a landmark in law. For the first time, companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.
The Act, which will come 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.
- The new act links to existing health and safety requirements regarding workplace safety.
- Currently all work-related deaths are dealt with by the relevant authorities such as the Police, the ‘Health and Safety Executive’ and Local Authorities which will remain unchanged under the new act.
- The new law does not place liability onto directors, board members or senior managers but it does place the liability onto the corporation. However, if gross negligence in the case of work related manslaughter is proven individuals may still face prosecution.
- Penalties may include fines, remedial orders and publicity orders. Should a remedial order be imposed it will require a company or organisation to take steps to remedy failures in management that have led to a death.
- This new law is not part of health and safety law. breaches of health and safety legislation will have to be considered by juries in cases of corporate manslaughter when determining the liability of companies or organisations.
- Juries may have to consider whether appropriate health and safety guidance has been taken into account and if there is evidence that shows there have been accepted or tolerances to practices that have led to serious failures in the management of workplace health and safety.
Take an example where a place at work is a mandatory hard hat area, but this has not been enforced. Should an employee be killed due to receiving a blow to the head from a falling object and it could have been prevented by wearing a hard hat, it would show failures in management of workplace health and safety.