Corporate Manslaughter: Stop Ignoring Obvious Risks

With HSE estimating that around a quarter of road collisions involve someone using the road for work, Martin Evans, Managing Director of Jaama, has urged employers to stop relying on pure luck and do more to ultimately prevent fatalities. 

He said: "Driving is the UK’s most dangerous work-related activity and employers are responsible for managing the physical condition of both the vehicle and the driver prior to it going out on the road.

"In the event of a collision, there is often a very fine line between a near-miss and a fatality. This could be the difference between the mechanics of the car being fit for use or being faulty."

He stressed that employers should conduct full vehicle risks assessments prior to any movement, including undertaking frequent vehicle safety checks, fully servicing vehicles, maintaining in accordance with manufacturer warranties and regularly checking and monitoring driving licenses. 

He continued: "If you think the driver isn’t fit to drive, don’t allow him to. If the safety check is five days overdue, don’t let the vehicle move.

"These risks can often get dismissed to prevent downtime, but if an accident happens and the driver was occupational, police officers will search for evidence. This includes the mechanical condition of the vehicle and the physical condition of the driver."

Evans’ comments follow a recent white paper from road safety charity IAM RoadSmart which revealed that nobody has been sent to jail or prosecuted for contributing to an avoidable work-related driving death since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force in 2008. This is despite the fact that latest HSE figures show in the year ending June 2018, there were 1,770 reported road fatalities. With its estimates that a quarter of these involve work-related driving, it is implied that 442 of these deaths could have been work-related. 

“Whether the law has been difficult to apply in terms of whether or not the accident was work-related or if pure luck has played a part in companies and individuals escaping prosecution is pure speculation," he said.

"But this does not mean that companies should cut corners - a work-related death caused by irresponsibility and ignoring risks can cause hefty fines, terrible publicity and still holds potential jail time. It is non-negotiable, and therefore imperative that employers are able to provide investigating police officers with comprehensive details on both vehicles and drivers."

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 was a landmark law, and for the first time saw companies able to be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures which result in a gross breach of a duty of care.