It has been six months since the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Let me recap on the key elements of the legislation and its effect of businesses. Organisations are now, for the first time, at risk from prosecution for gross failings at senior management level that cause a person's death. It will no longer be necessary for the prosecution to convict an individual who represents the directing mind of the company as a pre-requisite to convicting the company.
The offence is directed at organisation, so an individual, such as a company director, cannot be prosecuted under the Act, and no one can be sent to prison. However, the role that directors and senior managers play in decisions that impact on health and safety will be important. We have seen in the last twelve months new guidance aimed at directors issued jointly by the former Health & Safety Commission and the Institute of Directors (INDG 417) and a Court of Appeal decision holding that "neglect" within sections 37 of Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is based on an objective test, i.e. what the director ought to have known about the state of affairs of the organisation of which he or she is a director.
There is now a clear focus on compliance with health and safety law and an organisation's safety culture
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