New rules for playing the blame game: And there were those who said it would never happen! After three Labour party manifesto promises, it now looks like the Bill on corporate manslaughter is finally on the way. Despite continuing criticism from many sectors of the business community it now looks like that the new offence--applicable to both public and commercial bodies--will become law by the end of the next session of Parliament.(Corporate Manslaughter)

LAST YEAR THERE WERE 220 deaths at work in the UK and a further 117 members of the public were killed in workplace related accidents. A build up of pressure from many stakeholders including relatives of victims, Parliamentarians and the trade unions now looks likely to have succeeded in pushing through the proposed changes.

Who's Responsible?

The issue of corporate responsibility for deaths of workers or members of the public has posed problems for successive governments for over 20 years. A series of high profile prosecutions against national and international companies failed despite huge public pressure to see the offending companies punished.

The 1987 Herald of Free Enterprise disaster, with the loss of nearly 200 lives, saw an attempt to prosecute P&O European Ferries fail despite there being clear management failings in the safety culture and specific procedures. More recently, an unsuccessful prosecution against Balfour Beatty and National Rail for the Hatfield Railway crash was heavily criticised and added to that was the weight of criticism of the failure of the government to get to grips with a major obstacle in improving health and safety in the UK.

The reason for the failure of the attempted prosecutions lies with how the current laws have been framed. Currently, companies can only be convicted if there is sufficient evidence to show that a single senior person guilty of the failing. The failure to identify this 'Single Directing Mind' or 'Controlling Mind' of the organisation has led to the collapse of prosecutions against larger organisations. …

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