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Hazards Campaign, 2003

In early March 2003, the Hazards Campaign and Hazards Magazine launched a postcard campaign concerned with Corporate Killing and Directors Duties.

One of the four printed postcards was directed towards Rt. Hon. Nick Brown as who was the Minister in charge of Safety at the Department of Work and Pensions at the time. It stated

"The law imposes no safety duties on company directors. You promised to legislate to make directors care about the safety of their companies. Where is the long promised safety bill?

The standard letter (dated 19 March 2003) that has been sent from his department as a response to this, states the following. Please note emphasised section at end:

"Firstly, it is important to make clear that existing legislation already provides for health and safety offences committed by bodies corporate. Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, where a body corporate commits a health and safety offence, and the offence was committed with the consent or connivance of, or was attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, then that person (as well as the body corporate is liable to be proceeded against and punished.

However, the Government and the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) have gone further than this. Their joint strategy for improving health and safety, Revitalising Health and Safety, which was launched in 2000, committed HSC to developing a code of practice on directors’ responsibilities for health and safety. Following public consultation, the HSC approved publication of guidance directed at board members in all types of organisations. This guidance, Directors’ responsibilities for health and safety was published in July 2001. It is intended to help board members ensure that the risks to health and safety arising from their organisations’ activities are properly managed.

The Government and the HSC firmly believe that board-level leadership is essential in ensuring that health and safety is properly managed. There are clear signs that a growing number of organisations are recognising both the social and business benefits brought by board leadership and direction on health and safety. A lack of such involvement sends out the message that the board is not caring and could harm the organisation’s corporate reputation.
The Government and the HSC’s strategy is to reach out and convince the boards of those organisations to provide the necessary leadership and direction on health and safety and that such an approach is good for workers and good for business.

The Revitalising strategy also calls on the HSC to advise Ministers on how the law would need to be changed to make the responsibilities of directors statutory. The HSC expects to send Ministers its advice later this year; it will set out the effectiveness of its recent initiatives on directors’ responsibilities and the case for and against further legislation in this area. I can assure you that the Government will, as part of its consideration, evaluate the need for legislation to strengthen board accountability for health and safety."



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