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Corporate Manslaughter View

by msecadm4921

Three years on, what does the Corporate Manslaughter Act really mean for the security industry? Jim Irving, pictured, CEO of Guardian24, a provider of lone worker safety, examines how the security industry is responding to the legislation, and considers how best to protect staff.

The security industry is probably more aware than most when it comes to the importance of keeping people safe. As the Corporate Manslaughter Act approaches its third anniversary (having come into force on April 6, 2008), and with new sentencing guidelines recently introduced, security companies are reminded of the significance of this key piece of health and safety legislation, bought into force to help create safe working environments for employees.<br><br>The recent prosecution of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings serves as another reminder. The company was the first to be convicted under the new legislation after it was found to have failed to keep its staff safe when an engineer died in a collapsed pit. The small Gloucestershire-based firm was fined £385,000. Focused on the most serious of health and safety breaches, three years ago the Corporate Manslaughter Act introduced a new offence for prosecuting organisations when these failures have fatal consequences. Alongside this Act, from 16 January 2009 the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 also came into effect. This strengthened the existing law, and created the possibility of imprisonment for employees who might have contributed to a health and safety offence by their consent, connivance or neglect. <br><br>Individual employees can now therefore be convicted and imprisoned under the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008, while the organisation as a whole can be prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter Act. Recently new sentencing guidelines have been introduced, recommending appropriate organisational fines to start from £500,000 in the event of a conviction.<br><br>Clearly, the Corporate Manslaughter Act is an incredibly important piece of legislation, concerning organisations which have seriously failed in their duty to look after their staff, and alongside it there are many other guidelines in place that organisations should also consider. As an industry concerned with safety and protection, and with many unique risks and challenges involved, has the security industry done all it can to protect staff under this new legislation? <br><br>Many security businesses are taking great steps to safeguard their employees, but some are not doing all they can. Recent economic cutbacks are just one of the ways in which companies can be unwittingly exposing themselves and their employees to compromises in health and safety standards. As with many other areas of business, such budget cuts can lead to a significant rise in the number of ‘lone workers’ within organisations. And whilst mobile and lone working can bring enormous benefit to both businesses and employees alike, all too frequently, organisations are not adequately adjusting health and safety strategies to protect such staff. <br><br>While lone working does not necessarily bring more risks, it does bring different challenges and businesses must consider this when planning health and safety policy. Examples of this new breed of lone worker might include consultants attending meetings on their own, or newly created situations where one person will perform a task that two people might have done previously. Whatever the situation, businesses need to frequently reassess their policies to ensure they are suitable for the organisation’s evolving work environment. Many businesses have bought in technology based systems to monitor lone workers. It is important however to make sure that any system is workable and practical. If there is a safety system in place to monitor lone workers, employees must be able to raise the alarm in times of need and if lone working staff have a safety device, it should be charged and carried at all times. After all, the technology is only useful if it is being used properly. <br><br>Security professionals with a health and safety remit should understand the systems in place and ensure they know what is happening across the business. If an incident happens and results in a trial, directors are judged on what they know or ought to have known – or ‘directing mind’ which is the common law criteria that considers the size of the business and what directors are aware of. It’s also important that any business does not fall below the standard that is reasonably acceptable for its industry. Be it a security manufacturer or installation company any business must make sure that its policies and systems are up to a standard in line with its industry as a whole. <br><br>The Corporate Manslaughter Act has bought health and safety to the forefront of many organisations’ minds, however it should only be considered as one of the many guidelines put in place to protect workers. The security industry especially with its very focus being on keeping people safe and secure must ensure it keeps in line with health and safety legislation to not only protect the organisation, but most importantly, protect its workforce.

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