Fortunately for directors, when the Corporate Manslaughter Bill was finally enacted in July, it contained a significant change to the original draft.
Initially, it was thought that individual directors should be held personally liable for actions within the company which led to a fatality. This could have meant that in some cases directors would lose their liberty whilst the person responsible got off scot-free.
But any individual can still be held liable for gross negligence manslaughter if he or she was personally responsible for the fatality. This has not changed and is covered by existing legislation.
But I don't see why it is only the bosses who should carry the can.
Currently, if an individual causes a road accident on their way to work, they are held accountable by the police.
But immediately they drive through the site gates their personal responsibility appears to end and it is the directors of the company who become accountable. This is illogical. If well-trained employees are a direct cause of the accident, then they should bear responsibility.
A prosecution or a serious warning letter to the individual concerned will send the right message to the workforce. Such direct action is the only way we will make a quantum leap in reducing fatal accidents.
Directors must be committed to reducing accidents and injuries.However, under the Health and Safety at Work Act, every employee needs to take responsibility for his or her own safety together with the safety of those working around them. In fact, recent research suggests up to nine out of ten accidents are because of poor safety behaviour.
Employees can be trained up to the hilt, but if they then choose to ignore their training, for whatever reason, then let them take their share of the punishment.
Colin Wood is chief executive of the Construction Plant-hire Association.