Responsible companies 'have little to fear' from new manslaughter bill

Article date: 23 March 2007

Companies who take their health and safety responsibilitiesseriously have little to fear from the new Corporate Manslaughterlegislation, Norwich Union’s casualty risk manager PhilGrace said this week.

He was speaking after a one-day conference in London (ThursdayMarch 22) organised by JSB* on the Corporate Manslaughter Billcurrently going through parliament. He reassured employers that ifthey were taking all reasonable steps to protect theirworkers’ safety then they need not fear a manslaughterprosecution.

But he warned that all commercial companies ran the risk of afatal accident, and they needed to be responsible about protectingtheir employees.

“Good employers focus on minimising risk in theworkplace, not on a defensive approach where they simply try tocover their backs. That is not managing risk,” he said.

Grace did not envisage his advice to clients on risk managementchanging at all once the Bill is enacted. “The main changeis that the government has dropped the requirement to successfullyprosecute a senior manager for manslaughter before the company canbe found guilty. But the courts will still have to be satisfiedthat there was gross negligence on the part of the company beforea prosecution is successful. Gross negligence requires a very highdegree of guilt, and most of the time, I am glad to say, companiesare not grossly negligent.”

An example of gross negligence he cited was the successfulmanslaughter prosecution of the MD of a company that used heavymachinery to cut and polish stones. ”The machinery had aspecial safety guard that had been disconnected, and as a result aman was killed. The MD was aware that the guard had beendisconnected and he knowingly allowed that state of affairs tocontinue, a clear case of gross negligence."


For further information, please contact:
Ruth Devlin at Staniforth on 0161 919 8025/07900 215427 or SallyLeeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684225/07800 699670.

Notes to editors
*JSB is a UK leadingteam of employment law training specialists

  • Norwich Union is the UK’s largest general insurer with amarket share of around 15%, with a focus on insurance forindividuals and small businesses.
  • It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investmentproducts and one of the largest Financial Adviser (FA) providers.FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings businessin the UK.
  • Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva's internet press centre

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