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“We support moves to corporate killing laws” says H&S Chief


At the TUC Conference in Glasgow yesterday, Bill Callaghan, Chair of the Health and Safety Commission (HSC), announced the HSC's support for Government proposals to create a new offence of corporate killing. He also called for trade unions to help the HSC to deliver health and safety targets.

In response to a recent Home Office consultation, the HSC:

  • welcomed the Government's acceptance of the Law Commission's proposal for a new offence of corporate killing;
  • supported extending the offence to all companies and organisations in both the public and private sectors, including Crown bodies;
  • recognised the strong arguments for considering whether health and safety enforcing authorities should investigate and prosecute manslaughter cases, provided the necessary additional resources are made available for this to be carried out effectively;
  • supported the proposal that culpable company officers should be disqualified from acting in a management capacity;
  • in principle, supported the application of the corporate killing offence to occupational health-related deaths;
  • strongly recommended early action to introduce reforms to Scottish law so that the position is consistent north and south of the border.
Mr Callaghan said, "In June the Deputy Prime Minister and I launched the Revitalising Health and Safety initiative, based on an action plan to cut work-related deaths, injuries and accidents over the next 10 years. A major element of that strategy is to overhaul the law of this country in order to make companies and individuals more accountable for health and safety crimes."

"I can announce today that the Commission have given their full support to introducing a new offence of corporate killing and that we hope that the Government will legislate as soon as possible."

"Let me make one thing clear. We shall judge the success of such a measure not by how many companies are convicted, but how few. We must ensure that its main function is as a powerful deterrent, to prevent needless deaths and injuries while at the same time punishing the reckless and the negligent."

"A corporate killing offence must apply across the board, to both the public and private sectors and be the same in Scotland as it is in England and Wales. It is about ensuring that all commercial and non-commerciasl organisations are held to account for their actions, whoever or wherever they may be."

Commenting on Government proposals for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate and prosecute manslaughter cases, Mr Callaghan said, "The HSC considers that the HSE potentially has the expertise and experience through its existing work activity to play a valuable role here. However, manslaughter is a serious offence and we recognise that whoever is made responsible will need the necessary additional resources to carry out their duties effectively."

Mr Callaghan went on to emphasise the vital role that trade unions will have to play in delivering the Revitalising Health and Safety improvement targets, most notably through safety reps.

He said, "Safety reps are central to our health and safety system. The difficulties come where union representation is weak or non-existent. The HSC is keen to see the representation gap filled and its proposals for a pilot project on Workers' Safety Advisers - what some call roving reps - will help. I hope that the TUC will have a key role in appointing these advisors and that the TUC and unions will make sure that advisers are properly trained. I shall be urging David Blunkett and the new chair of the Learning and Skills Council to give their full support for safety rep. training."


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