Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, an organisation is guilty of the offence of corporate manslaughter (corporate culpable homicide in Scotland) if the way in which it manages or organises its activities causes a death and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care to the deceased. A substantial part of the breach must have been in the way activities were managed by the senior management of the organisation.
To date, there has only been one conviction under the Act and that involved a small company with fewer than five employees.
A second company, Lion Steel Equipment Ltd., which manufactures storage products and has more than 100 employees, has now been charged with corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences following the death, in May 2008, of one of its employees as a result of falling through a plastic roof at an industrial unit in Hyde, Greater Manchester.
In addition, three of the company directors have been charged with gross negligence manslaughter, as well as failing to ensure the safety at work of their employees under Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
It is anticipated that this case will provide clarification on the operation of the legislation and, if a conviction occurs, guidance on the likely level of fines in such cases.
Successful defences to charges of corporate manslaughter will inevitably depend on being able to prove that the organisation takes a responsible attitude to health and safety, with appropriate risk management procedures in place that are enforced rigorously.
Contact Jeremy Walker for advice on any health and safety law matter.