The Corporate Manslaughter Act FAQ
Introduction to the new Corporate Manslaughter Act
The new Corporate Manslaughter Act became
law on April 6, 2008 and emphasises the need for a clear, auditable
line of management of health and safety procedures from the top of
a company to the bottom.
What is the new Corporate Manslaughter Act?
The act sets out a new offence for which an organisation may be
prosecuted where a gross failure in the way activities were managed
or organised results in a person’s death. This will apply to a wide
range of organisations across the public and private sectors. In
England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the new offence will be called
corporate manslaughter. It will be called corporate homicide in
The Corporate Manslaughter Act became law on 6 April 2008. It is
a stand alone piece of criminal legislation and is not part of
health and safety law. However, although the new act does not
contain provision for personal prosecution this already exists
under current legislation, (section 36 and 37 of the Health and
safety at Work Act 1974).
It is thought likely that where gross negligence is suspected by
the police under the new act, then files may be passed onto the
Health and Safety Executive for prosecution under section 36 and 37
of the Health and safety at Work Act 1974.
The act will apply where there have been serious failures in the
management of health and safety which results in a fatality. There
could be an increased likelihood of personal prosecutions of
directors and senior managers where it can be proven that health
and safety procedures were grossly inadequate.
What counts as manslaughter under the act?
The organisation will be guilty of an offence if the way in
which its activities are managed or organised
- cause a person’s death
- amount to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the
organisation to the deceased.
How does it affect me? (as both an employer and an
Responsibility under the new act for correct administration of
health and safety procedure lies with directors and senior
managers. They represent the guiding will and mind of an
organisation and play a significant role in how the whole, or a
significant part, of their organisations activities are managed or
One option is to appoint a member of the board to be a
“champion” with responsibility for the administration of health and
safety procedures. The organisation may implement policy through a
health and safety manager, but the there must be a clear, auditable
line from the top of the company to the bottom showing how health
and safety policy is implemented.
This sounds scary, do you expect a lot of people to be fined or
go to jail because of this?
People will be arrested and there will be public demand for
someone “to be seen to be held responsible” after a fatal accident.
However, to keep this in perspective, the threshold for activation
of the new act is high because the prosecution has to prove “gross
The Magistrates’ guide states; “In order to convict a company of
manslaughter it must be seen that a causal link existed between a
grossly negligent act, or omission by a person who is the
“controlling mind” of the company, and the immediate cause of
Does this act mean that I need to retrain all my first aiders
at work? Will more first aiders be needed per place of work?
The provision of first aid is one of the many elements you need
to have in place. Health and safety in the workplace and first aid
courses are two separate things and we recommend that the Fire
marshal and First aider are separate people within your
organisation. Having one person undertake both roles could lead to
injuries being untreated during a fire or fire practice, for
The new act should prompt a review of all your health and safety
procedures and an assessment of risks and risk management in your
organisation. If training is needed then St John Ambulance will be
able to provide expert help in all aspects of health and safety and
first aid training for employees and management.
What else will need to change in the workplace?
This is very much down to the individuals responsible for health
and safety in your organisation. The main change with regard to the
new act is the clarity of management reporting. There also needs to
be someone representing the guiding mind and will of an
organisation at board level to be setting goals and objectives for
health and safety and monitoring performance against
Where can I go for more information?
There are a number of useful websites including:
You can also call 0845 345 0055, the Health and Safety Executive
information line for advice.
I am confused about what I need to train my staff in; who can
We have a range of health and safety at work courses that take
you through the safety considerations appropriate to your job.
Please call 08700 10 49 50 for further
information on these and our other health and safety courses near
Can charges be brought historically?
Offences under the act only become effective when the Act
becomes law on April 6
Can I be held accountable for higher management decisions?
A person can only be culpable for a failing within their
sphere of responsibility. Failings of higher management are the
responsibility of higher managers. However, it’s a good idea to
make sure you have an audit trail of your own activities as a
safeguard should a prosecution ever be made against you or your
What is St John Ambulance doing specifically to help people
deal with this?
We have a range of health and safety courses which are approved
by recognised industry bodies such as:
- IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health)
- British Safety Council
- Institution of Fire Engineers.
Companies who send students on these courses will have the peace
of mind knowing that they are being trained by a trusted supplier
on courses that have been approved by leading industry leading
bodies. Attendance on these courses is supporting evidence that
your organisation takes the health and safety of its employees and
customers very seriously.