By Max Clarke

The prosecution of Cotswold Geotech is likely to be the first of many under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 warns Croner, the UK’s largest provider of workplace information, software and services, part of Wolters Kluwer, the global information services group.

In convicting the company, the jury found that their system of work was wholly and unnecessarily dangerous and that the company had ignored well-recognised industry guidance. The company were found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of 27 year old geologist Alex Wright and has today been fined £385,000.

Commenting on the news, Nasar Farooq, Safety Technical Manager at Croner, says: “The prosecution of Cotswold Geotech is a clear indicator that the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act is here to stay.

“When the legislation was introduced in 2008, legal and corporate responsibility experts wondered what the exact impact would be. This case demonstrates that the new legislation is being used successfully and as a consequence we expect to see a sharp rise in prosecutions.”

Nasar adds: “This case proves that is more important than ever for employers to take a holistic view of health and safety. In a court of law paper-based lip service exercises will not be a suitable defence. Businesses will need to demonstrate that safety culture plays an integral part of work activities.”

Croner’s top tips for managing health and safety are:

• Remember that a good culture, safety or otherwise, starts from the top. Appoint and provide assistance to a Health and Safety Director, who will need to ensure health and safety concerns, performance indicators, targets and failures are communicated to the Board.

• Make sure that health and safety management systems accurately reflect the company’s activities.

• Actively involve senior managers to act as motivators for all levels of management (by maintaining their interest through participation) and for employees (by demonstrating management’s commitment to their well-being).

• Allocate health and safety responsibilities to all levels of staff to create a sense of ownership regarding the companies overall health and safety standards.

• Encourage communication between all levels in spoken, written and visible pathways.

• Implementing health and safety measures need not be costly — it can save you money not only in the avoidance of fines, penalties etc. but in tangible business benefits such as increased performance, reduction in lost time, reduced insurance premiums and a healthier, happier workforce.