Corporate Manslaughter / Homicide Act & Workplace Health & Safety
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force on 6th April 2008. It significantly ramps up the penalties levied against an entity that is found to have caused an avoidable death due the Health & Safety negligence.
In the event of a fatal accident occurring which in a Court of Law was found to have been preventable then this Act will apply. Although aimed at the Corporation or entity, it does not absolve Directors or others of their responsibilities under H&S legislation
“The Act attempts to align the offence of corporate killing north and south of the border. An indictable offence is committed if the way in which an organisation’s activities are managed or organised:
- Causes a person’s death; and
- Amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased;
— and the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach. Prosecution in England or Wales requires the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and in Northern Ireland, the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland and no natural person can be charged with aiding and abetting the offence. The common law offence of gross negligence manslaughter, as it applies to corporations, is abolished.”
The offence applies to Corporations, Partnerships, Trade Unions and employees associations (that are themselves employees), Police Forces and some Government Departments.
On conviction a corporation may be ordered to remedy any breach, to publicise its failures, and / or be given an unlimited fine.
The Sentencing Guidelines Council issued a steps based definitive guideline, effective from 1 February 2016, for sentencing the offence of corporate manslaughter. The recommendations of the guideline are based on the size and turnover of the organisations with a starting fine of £300,000 and a no limit maximum.
An organisation with a group-wide turnover in excess of £50m could be faced with a fine of £20m.
If an individual is also found liable for the offence of manslaughter, it can be prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 ruled by the same sentencing guideline.
How to Prevent This Happening
Ensuring good management of Health & Safety is paramount. Risks should all be identified, controlled and mitigated.
Specifically in terms of risks associated with electricity, preventative maintenance is always the key. To this end, all electrical installations and everything connected to them, emergency lighting and fire alarm systems should all be periodically inspected and tested at intervals suitable to the environment (guideline frequencies are quoted elsewhere on our web site)
Following inspection and testing any defects found should be rectified and recorded as such.
Remember – proof of adequate and suitable maintenance is key in the defence of any case of potential prosecution. Keeping records of all testing and maintenance undertaken will form the basis of this proof and enable the duty holder to demonstrate that they have taken a pro-active approach to preventative maintenance.
In any event, having a regime of adequate and effective preventative maintenance will prevent an incident arising in the first place which could otherwise lead to a prosecution occurring.
Electrical Testing Surveyors Ltd are experts in the field of electrical inspection and testing and have been specialists in this field since 1992. As such, are well placed to help with all areas involving electrical safety, testing and maintenance.
All documentation provided by ETS would satisfy your obligations regarding the requirements of “The Electricity at Work Regulations” recording what faults exist, the severity of any faults found and the suggested rectification action required to bring the system up to a safe standard.
Should the worst happen and an incident occur resulting in the potential for prosecution, then in conjunction with any necessary remedial work, the data and reports provided by ETS will provide robust evidence that you have acted responsibly and complied with your duty to adequately maintain the electrical system and equipment, as a reasonable person would be expected to do.
Defence against prosecution is heavily influenced by what “a reasonable person” would be expected to do.