Corporate manslaughter and the manager...

Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Culpable Homicide Act 2007 (enacted April 2008) your business could be liable to be prosecuted for manslaughter (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or culpable homicide (Scotland) if anyone was to die at your place of work.

The act states that if an organisation causes a person’s death due to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation then the organisation may be prosecuted. The penalty for the business could be an unlimited fine. Although the above act does not apply directly to individuals, individuals can (and often are) prosecuted under the common law offence of gross negligence manslaughter.

The penalty for the individual can often be higher than that for the company. For example this year (2014) Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited, were fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £4,000 in costs after Malcolm Hinton was crushed to death whilst carrying out repairs to a road sweeper. The company’s only director, Mervyn Owens was fined £183,000 and disqualified from being a director for 5 years.

Ignorance of your responsibility for the safety of others is not an acceptable defence. As the owner or senior manager of a business you are expected to be fully aware of your responsibilities to minimise risk to employees, clients and visitors to your premises. An important aspect of this includes ensuring your premises are safe from the risk of fire.

Ensuring your premises are safe starts with carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment. This will identify any areas of concern - significant findings - which can then be addressed. A good assessment will not just identify areas of concern it will also provide guidance on regular routines, maintenance and training for staff.

Keeping a copy of the risk assessment on file, following its recommendations and getting it reviewed regularly will go a long way to mitigating the chances of you being prosecuted for negligence.

If you have questions about fire risk assessment, or for help on any aspect of fire safety, call us on 01524 784356 today.

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

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