Directors urged to do more on health and safety

Businesses could do more to prevent thousands of accidents and hundreds of avoidable deaths a year.

The Bringing justice to the boardroom report, commissioned by the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) and written by the Centre for Corporate Accountability, highlights a failure of voluntary approaches to reduce injuries and fatalities in the workplace, and the adoption of statutory legal health and safety duties for directors.

It claims that, on average, in the last five years just seven directors or senior managers have been convicted of health and safety offences despite more than 200 workplace-linked deaths a year. Within the construction industry, 347 construction workers were killed between 2002-03 and 2006-07, but just 13 directors or senior managers were prosecuted as a result.

The report also claims that when a company does take positive action at director level regarding health and safety, on average, it leads to a 25% reduction in accidents and, in certain cases, there has been an 80% reduction in accidents where companies have taken a proactive approach.

The publication of the report coincides with the launch of new voluntary guidance for directors published jointly by the Institute of Directors and the Health and Safety Commission, which will be sent to 50,000 private and public sectors across the country, recommending heads of companies to take action to prevent prosecution under the new Corporate Manslaughter Act.

UCATT said that the Corporate Manslaughter legislation fails to include legal statutory director duty clauses.

Michael Clapham MP, chair of the all-party occupational safety and health group, said: “This report should be required reading for all those who argued against the need to make directors directly liable for companies’ health and safety failures. It is essential that parliament has the opportunity to revisit this matter at the earliest possible opportunity.”