Union Calls for Corporate Manslaughter Law in Britain

April 25, 2003
Employers must be held accountable for health and safety if people are to be properly protected at work, says Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, a large manufacturing union in the UK.

The union is calling on the British government to introduce a new manslaughter law that calls for the imprisonment of company executives and massive fines for companies found guilty of causing death, disease or injury to their employees or members of the public.

Speaking at an event in London on April 25 to mark International Workers Memorial Day on April 28, Simpson said, "Two hundred and forty-nine people were killed at work in the UK last year and an estimated 10,000 people died from occupational illnesses. At least 70 percent of these deaths and injuries are the direct result of employer's failure to manage health and safety and could have been prevented."

Simpson noted a man was recently sentenced to three months in prison for beheading a statue of Margaret Thatcher, while another was jailed for two years for unleashing a computer virus. "Yet employers responsible for [workers'] deaths get off scot free," Simpson complained.

Under current British law, a corporation can only be prosecuted if there is sufficient evidence to prove that one of its directors or senior managers committed manslaughter through gross negligence. Only five corporations have ever been convicted of manslaughter.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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