Hospitality employers are particularly at risk from toughened corporate manslaughter legislation, which comes into force in less than a month, experts have warned.
Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (2007), which becomes law on 6 April, businesses will face much tougher penalties in the event of a workplace death.
Under the previous incarnation of the act, just six convictions were made between 1992 and 2005, despite the hotel sector seeing 30 deaths in the past eight years.
The Government has now removed the need to prove that an individual was responsible for a death at work, so organisations can be found guilty of gross breaches of duty to care for a person's safety.
A company that is found guilty of breaching the new act can face a fine of between 2.5% and 10% of turnover, depending on the severity of the incident.
Graeme Cushion, regulatory crime and licensing solicitor at Poppleston Allen, said: "This is a simple cost-risk analysis. The risk just got a whole lot bigger, and perhaps it is time to put in a little bit more."
Pat Perry, executive chairman of health and safety consultancy Perry Scott Nash Associates, said that hospitality businesses should be evaluating their businesses now, as they are particularly at risk of falling foul of the law.
"The problem in hospitality is that not all workers speak English," he said. "What is the point of training staff to meet the law if they do not understand it? That is not competent training."
How to avoid manslaughter charges
Top 10 tips for avoiding a charge of corporate manslaughter:
1. Identify hazards.
2. Review risk assessments.
3. Review safety policy.
4. Review training programmes.
5. Review accident records.
6. Review maintenance programmes.
7. Review communication procedures.
8. Review any auditing process.
9. Identify who senior managers are.
10. Set up procedures for board-level scrutiny.
Source: Perry Scott Nash Associates
For more information go to www.justice.gov.uk
By Christopher Walton
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