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December 20, 2005

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Manslaughter views taken to Parliament

A new corporate manslaughter law is not only necessary, it should be clearer than that proposed by government, IOSH told members of a government committee in November.

Members of the Home Affairs and Work and Pensions joint sub-committees on the draft corporate manslaughter bill heard evidence from IOSH immediate past president Lawrence Waterman and Council member Mike Welham.

Lawrence told the sub-committee, chaired by John Denham MP, that: “In the public’s view, health and safety at work offences are in a different league to manslaughter.” Lawrence added that companies convicted of a manslaughter offence would face levels of public disapproval more in keeping with the offence committed.

Mike illustrated this: “I remember a company being investigated for corporate manslaughter that didn’t get business because of it — clients went elsewhere. I spoke to one of the company directors recently and he said that just the threat had changed the face of the organisation.”

IOSH has previously argued in favour of the new offence of corporate manslaughter, which the Institution feels will help provide a greater sense of justice to victims’ families in cases where death occurs in the workplace, while also helping to drive up health and safety standards.

“Having a corporate manslaughter charge as a possibility will focus minds and encourage good practice,” Lawrence said, adding: “But directors and trustees’ will need an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) to make it clear what the required standards are.”

Mike added that an ACoP would enable senior management to know what health and safety law required of them, and would also provide a clearer guide on the management standards that need to be met for courts dealing with corporate manslaughter prosecutions.

IOSH also suggested that more ‘innovative penalties’ could be brought in, so that those failing to meet their health and safety responsibilities could be held to account in more productive ways than just fines.

Lawrence said: “We are suggesting that a mechanism could be explored so that courts could say: ‘We would normally fine you this amount, but we will fine you a lower amount providing you satisfy us that you are taking other remedial steps’. The idea is to design a financial incentive for organisations to do the work.”

In IOSH/MDH ‘The value of health and safety’ survey, 83 per cent of IOSH members felt that the new corporate manslaughter bill would improve the current legislative situation. IOSH will continue to push for a new corporate manslaughter bill to be implemented at every opportunity.

IOSH’s response to the Draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill is available at:

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