First conviction of corporate manslaughter

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force in 2008 and introduced a new offence of corporate manslaughter where the gross negligence of a company’s senior management results in death.

On 15 February 2011, Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings was found guilty of corporate manslaughter, this being the first conviction under the Act. This resulted from a fatal incident which occurred in 2008, when a geologist employee was killed whilst taking samples from a trench.

The company was fined £385,000. The standard minimum fine for such offences is said in guidance to be £500,000, however the company’s current poor financial circumstances meant a lower fine was set.
It was determined that the company had ignored industry guidance when undertaking dangerous work in digging trial pits and had failed to take reasonable practicable steps to protect the geologist in the circumstances.

Employment businesses should note that they are required under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 (as amended) to request information from clients relating to health and safety issues prior to any introduction or supply of candidates. Specifically, the information requested must identify any risks to health or safety and the steps taken to prevent or control such risks. This information must be passed onto your workers. The general duties placed on clients to carry out risk assessments are contained in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It is vital that these duties are taken seriously by both employment businesses and their clients in all circumstances, particularly when workers are assigned into higher risk sectors such as construction.

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