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 Scotland.

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 employee)

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 organised.

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 negligence”.

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 death”.

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 example.

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 these. 

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 help me?

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 you.

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 company.

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.

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