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Directors Duties - HSC Meeting in April 2006
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Director Duties - April 2006 Decision

At its meeting in April 2006, the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) put on hold its decision (that had been made at its meeting in December 2005) to support the introduction of health and safety duties on directors.

It agreed to look again at the decision once the implications of the corporate manslaughter bill, the new Companies Act and the Macrory Bill were known. To see copies of minutes of meeting and papers considered by HSC, scroll to bottom of this page.

Background - the December 2005 decision
At this meeting, the HSC agreed in principle to support legislative change. It asked the HSE to produce an options paper for legislative change.

To read more about this meeting and the documents considered by the HSC prior to this meeting, click here

The April 2006 Decision
The HSC considered a series of papers produced by the HSE.

The main HSE paper stated that, following a series of meetings “a broad consensus existed around a specific leading [legislative] option”. This option was to impose a duty on individual directors framed in terms of a general duty to “take all reasonable steps to ensure health and safety.”

However the HSE paper stated that although there were ‘significant areas of agreement” amongst key stakeholders – in that they agreed that director leadership plays a key role in improving health and safety, that clear and credible guidance on director leadership is essential and that current legislation needs enforcing effectively – there were ‘significant’ and ‘fundamental’ disagreement amongst stakeholders as to whether “further legislation is needed to motivate directors.”

The HSE explained the position of those against legislative change as follows: “In general the employer’s representatives are not in favour of legislation. Indeed some would see it as having a negative impact in terms of risk aversion and an increase in bureaucracy. Representatives of both large and small organizations were concerned that legislation would force activity on compliance and not provide the desired cultural shifts on leading health and safety improvement.” It added that, “some stakeholders feel that a possible unintended consequence of legislation is that it may have a disproportionate impact on small organizations. Directors in large organisations are more distanced from the day to day activities of their organisations, in a way that those of small organizations cannot be.”

A further document that the HSE prepared for the HSC was a draft “regulatory impact assessment.” This concluded that the benefits of any legislative changes would be at most £45 million per year but that the costs would be £102 million per year.
The paper also stated that some stakeholders thought that the issue of legislation on directors duties should only be decided in the context of possible reforms on corporate manslaughter, company law reform and work on alternative penalties.

HSE Papers for Meeting and Minutes
To Download minutes of Meeting
HSE paper to HSC Meeting
Current Legal situation in relation to directors
Paper on statutes that contain duties on directors
Paper on Legal Options available
Draft Regualatory Impact Assessment


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Page last updated on October 27, 2007