Corporate manslaughter – the hot topic

What is corporate manslaughter and corporate homicide act 2007 ?

• Voluntary manslaughter – where harm is intended and death occurs as a result of action taken.

• Involuntary manslaughter – where there is no intention to cause harm, but death is caused through gross negligence or recklessness.

• Corporate manslaughter – where there is a gross failing in corporate procedures to take the steps required to protect their employees resulting in death.

Both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter carry the potential for a jail sentence, but you cannot send a company to jail, so corporate manslaughter usually results in large fines.

As an employer your organisation has a duty of care and, if that duty of care was breached and someone died as a result, your organisation may be charged with corporate manslaughter. Individual directors, managers or members of staff may also be charged with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

There’s a lot of scare-mongering going on with inaccurate information about corporate manslaughter, in particular the fallacy that directors can be imprisoned if the organisation is found guilty of this offence. However, if the directors of any organisation are concerned about the potential for being charged with any form of manslaughter there is a simple solution:

Take your obligations under health and safety law seriously!

Get your safety management systems in place, review them and ensure that your leaders are fully behind them. Leadership is critical and, once your management thoroughly understand their responsibilities, monitoring safety systems should be just another aspect of their normal routine.

It’s not only the fines that can damage your business – although the final bill can be very big with a starting point of £100,000, typically around £500,000 and can be in the millions – but the fact that the negative publicity can take the lifeblood out of your business as your customers leave in droves.

You can’t hide a conviction as the courts may now include as part of the sentence a legal requirement to publish, on every form of media you issue, a statement covering a specified percentage of the total area of the publication stating:

• That you have been convicted
• Specified particulars – dictated by the court
• The amount of the fine
• The terms of any remedial order (what you have to do to change your operation so it won’t happen again).

This must appear on invoices, marketing materials, your website – everything you send out.

Quite apart from that, your insurance company are unlikely to be happy with the situation as they will bear the brunt of the compensation payments. Your premiums will rocket – or your insurance may simply be withdrawn. It’s worth making the effort to get your safety management right so you can sleep easy at night.