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Corporate manslaughter call

Members of the British Security Industry Association’s (BSIA) Lone Worker Section have called for companies to review their health and safety policies in light of new guidelines relating to health and safety, food and corporate manslaughter.

The guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council will be considered by courts at the point of sentencing an organisation or an individual on all health and safety, food and corporate manslaughter offences. For companies who employ people whose jobs require them to work or operate alone, regularly or occasionally, there is a legal obligation to keep these lone workers safe – and, the trade body points out, the UK has an estimated six million lone workers. Employers should, the section says:

• Understand legal responsibilities as an employer (or occupier of a premises)
• Ensure a risk assessment is carried out and strategies implemented to provide a safe working environment for lone workers
• Ensure that the lone worker has the relevant resources, training and information to work on their own safely
• Have procedures to deal with a lone worker having an accident or signalling an emergency.

By having policies and procedures in place to meet these legal responsibilities, employers can greatly reduce the risk to their lone workers, and the risk of prosecution or large financial penalties where breaches occur, according to the BSIA.

Under the new guidelines, employers who breach their duty towards employees and non-employees face significantly larger fines if sentenced on or after 1st February 2016, regardless of when the offence was committed. Fines for serious breaches used to run to several hundred thousand pounds typically, but under the new guidelines these can start at a fine of several million pounds for a large organisation found to be highly culpable in a ‘harm category one’ incident.

Courts are given guidance on how to determine the offence category using culpability and harm factors, which are then used to determine an offending organisation’s fine from a matrix of suggested ranges. A number of ‘aggravating factors’ can result in an upward adjustment of any fine imposed – one such factor is “cost cutting at the expense of safety”, clear evidence of the importance of procuring lone worker services on the basis of quality, rather than purchase price alone.

Corporate manslaughter fines have also increased. The previous starting threshold recommended for all corporate manslaughter convictions was £500,000, but under the new guidelines, a category A (high culpability) offence committed by a large organisation would start at £7.5 million with a category range of between £4.8m to £20m. Small organisations will also be faced with potentially business killing fines – an organisation with a turnover of between £2m to £10m could face up to £2.8m of fines if found guilty of a Category A offence.

Craig Swallow, pictured, the chairman of the BSIA’s Lone Worker section, says: “The new guidelines signify an increasing importance for businesses of all sizes to review their health and safety policies and procedures. Failure to do so could result in the injury or death of an employee which could land the business with critical financial penalties, and directors could be prosecuted personally.

“It is therefore vitally important to consider sourcing lone worker services to protect employees who may be required to work alone or who aren’t directly supervised, whether occasionally or regularly. When sourcing lone worker services, companies should look for systems that offer devices or smartphone applications that are certified to BS8484, which are monitored by an Alarm Receiving Centre certificated to BS8484 (part 6) and BS5979 (Cat II) or BS8591 or EN50518.”



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