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'Suspend directors' of Corporate Manslaughter Companies

25 March 2008

Directors, and in some cases the entire board, should be suspended when companies are convicted under new corporate manslaughter legislation.

That's the view of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), which recently responded to a Sentencing Advisory Council consultation on corporate manslaughter. The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act comes into effect in just over a month's time (6 April).

Other sanctions proposed by IOSH included far-reaching improvement orders, substantial fines and court-ordered publicity. It said suspension of all or part of the board of directors should be at the court's disposal, but ought only to apply "in the worst cases".

Ray Hurst, IOSH president, said: "Our focus here is on prevention and protecting lives. We're keen that those organisations found guilty of this grave offence are required to make the fundamental changes needed to improve their leadership, systems and cultures."

Remedial orders

IOSH also called for the compulsory training or retraining of directors and senior managers in the management of health and safety, in the event of a conviction.

Other "remedial orders" proposed were the introduction behavioural safety programmes and the use of third-party audits and access to competent health and safety advice.

Ray Hurst added: "Where failings of senior management have led to deaths, we must all look very closely at what went wrong and learn lessons. Sentencing can be a useful tool for achieving improvements far wider than in just the convicted organisation itself."

IOSH said it agreed with the proposed range of fines up to and beyond 10% of annual turnover, depending on circumstances, and also that there should be a minimum fine level - suggesting 2.5% of annual turnover.

'No controls'

This week IOSH also repeated its call for the health and safety profession to be properly regulated, when its representatives appeared before a Government committee.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Select Committee is currently heading an inquiry into the health and safety system in Britain.

When asked by John Penrose MP about the issue of controlling consultants "overselling" their services and HSE reports of "60-page risk assessments", Richard Jones commented: "There are no controls and that's why we are calling to make health and safety a regulated profession.

"The trouble is at present anyone can set themselves up as a health and safety consultant or adviser. We've produced a very short guide detailing what good practice for consultants should be like. All our members need to abide by that."

He added: "We've also produced an employer's guide to hiring consultants saying that this is what you need to look for. There's a list of key questions they need to ask and we're hoping this sort of advice will help."

Article from Norwich Union Risk Services website (05/03/08)