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4 June 2003

News Update Coroners Review Team and Work-Related Deaths

Key points relating to Work-Related Deaths

To read more detailed briefing CLICK HERE


1. There will continue to be inquests into 'Work-place' deaths.

Currently, all formally reportable work-related deaths will have an inquest. The Consultation document published in .... suggested that there would be no automatic inquest. It stated:

82 We consider that there should be a strong presumption in favour of public inquests into all deaths of prisoners, people compulsorily detained under Mental Health Act powers, and at the hands of the law and order services. It is not so clear that deaths in some other categories should automatically be investigated in formal public inquests.
83 We particularly have in mind cases in which people take their own lives, deaths on the road, deaths from occupational disease and accidents at work. These are all categories of deaths which some coroners have themselves mentioned when asked if there were some inquests which they think less useful than others, or less suitable for automatic formal judicial investigation in public.

However, chapter 7 of the final report makes clear that there will be inquests into

"any traumatic work-place death in which industrial process or activity is implicated"

It is not clear however what the Review team mean by:


'Work Place' death

Does it include members of the public who die as a result of workplace activities?


'industrial process or activity'

What about agricultural or service sector deaths where an 'industrial process or activity' is not involved but do involve workplace activities?

At present there are inquests into all 'work-related' deaths involving either workers or members of the public

2 No inquests into workplace deaths that take place abroad

The final report states that there would be no automatic right for an inquest if the death takes place abroad - which at present there is. The report states at chapter 21, para 66:

"There should be discretion, to be exercised on reasonable grounds, over whether to hold a public inquest when a UK resident dies abroad and the body is repatriated into England or Wales, and the circumstances of the death are unclear or otherwise needing explanation. The circumstances most likely to justify public inquests are (a) where there are issues about the precautions take or the plans made by the domestic organisers or collective trips abroad, particularly for children and young people and (b) there are mass disasters abroad with significant loss of British lives."

3 There shall be no juries present at workplace inquests

The final report states that juries should only be involved where:

"someone compulsorily in the care of the state has died in unclear circumstances, or where a death may have been caused by agents of the state ... and in other cases which fall within Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights but not in other cases" (Chapter 9, para 51 and 2)

4 There will be specialist coroners set up to deal with 'workplace deaths'.

The final report states that:

"When the new national coroner jurisdiction are set up investigation of workplace deaths should be regarded as a specialist function on which expertise would be concentrated in one coroner in each of the new coroner areas or perhaps even one coroner in each region. A similar specialisaion should be encouraged in a small number of coroners officers."

5. The Health and Safety Executive and other regulatory bodies should give reasons to families if they decide not to prosecute following a death

"The Health and Safety Executive and the other enforcement agencies should consider how far they might follow the practice of the CPS in cases involving a death and offer bereaved families an opportunity to give a view of whether they should prosecute and explain their decisions to families"

This is an important new proposal. The CCA has been involved in discussions with the HSE about their policy on providing detailed reasons to bereaved families

6. Widening of the nature of the inquiry undertaken by Coroners. This will effect all deaths, not just workplace deaths

Para 30 and 31 of Chapter 21 states:

The outcome of the inquest should be primarily a factual account of the cause and circumstances of the death and an analysis of whether there were systemic failings which had they not existed might have prevented it, should in suitable cases examine whether there was a real and immediate risk to life and whether the authorities took, or failed to take, reasonable steps to prevent it.

The analysis should include the regulatory or safety regimes designed to protect people from risk in the circumstances of the death, and wither or not they were properly observed or were, so far as the evidence shows, adequate

7 There will be no verdicts given after the inquest. This will effect all deaths, not just workplace deaths. There will instead be 'narrative verdicts'.

CCA contact details
: 020 7 490 4494
or 07766 598274

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Page last updated on January 11, 2004