Australia Wide 1300 453 555 | International +613 9510 0477 info@safetydimensions.com.au
Related posts: Queensland Industrial Manslaughter: New Laws


File 20170616 545 1s6gzod

Ioannis Glinavos, University of Westminster.

The disaster at Grenfell Tower has been described by David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, as a case of “corporate manslaughter”. According to English law, companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures, resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.

Amid calls for arrests, it’s time to consider whether the failings that led to the Grenfell disaster could possibly justify the use of the label “corporate manslaughter” – and what this would mean for victims who seek justice.

Prosecutions for this offence are of a corporate body (defined broadly enough to include public authorities) and not individuals – so we probably won’t see any pictures of executives being led away in handcuffs. That said, directors, board members and others may still be liable to prosecution under health and safety law or general criminal law. The offence also covers contractors and sub-contractors, so long as they owe a duty of care to the victims.

A duty of care is an obligation, whereby an organisation must take reasonable steps to protect a person’s safety. Legally, it is broadly understood as avoiding negligence by not placing people in danger. These duties also exist in relation to workplaces and equipment, as well as to products or services supplied to customers. This suggests that when an entity exercises control over people and spaces it has a responsibility to protect them.

The corporate manslaughter offence uses the same definitions of duty of care as the common law offence of gross negligence manslaughter. This means that the threshold for the offence is high – the way that activities were managed or organised must have fallen seriously far below reasonable standards.

The consequences

Any organisation convicted of this offence would face a fine of anywhere between £180,000 and £20m (though there is no hard maximum limit). They would also be handed a publicity order, which requires them to publicise the conviction, along with certain details of the offence, as specified by the court. The court can also set a remedial order, requiring the organisation to address the cause of the fatal injury, which in this case could have consequences for similar tower blocks.

While there is no direct precedent for this kind of tragedy – involving massive loss of life for non-workers – to help us estimate penalties, some indications can be gleaned from the fines imposed on rail operators for train accidents. In 2003, Thames Trains and Network Rail were fined over £2m and £4m respectively, in relation to the health and safety breaches that led to the 1999 Ladbroke Grove train crash, which killed 31 people. And in 2006, Network Rail was fined £3.5m and Balfour Beatty an eventual £7.5m (following an appeal) for faults leading to the fatal derailment of a train near Hatfield in 2000.

It’s also possible for an organisation to be charged with both corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences in the same proceedings. In these circumstances, if an organisation is convicted of corporate manslaughter the jury may still be asked to return a verdict on the health and safety charges if the interests of justice so require, which can have further consequences for individuals.

Potential defendants

Corporate manslaughter is an extremely serious offence, reserved for the very worst cases of corporate mismanagement leading to death. Even before knowing the full extent of the Grenfell disaster, it’s safe to say that it is likely to fall in this category.

Potential defendants in this case – should one eventually be brought – would probably include the building’s management company, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), and possibly also contractors involved in the tower’s recent renovation.

But advocates for the victims are likely to be looking further than that, seeking to challenge the behaviour of public authorities and political decisions about spending on improvements to social housing in London. Prosecutions of public authorities would have far-reaching political consequences.

If the defendant is a public authority, exemptions may apply to decisions about public policy. For example, strategic funding decisions and other matters involving competing public interests, cannot be challenged in criminal proceedings. But decisions about how resources were managed are not exempt, which means that deliberate under-investment in maintaining safety could lead to prosecutions.

According to the law, the offence is concerned with how an organisation’s activities were managed or organised. So, courts will look at management systems and practices across the organisation in question, and investigate whether an adequate standard of care was applied. A substantial part of the failing must have occurred at a senior management level for a conviction to be successful.

Juries would be required to consider the extent to which an organisation was in breach of health and safety requirements, and assess how serious those failings were. They would also consider wider cultural issues within the organisation, such as attitudes or practices that tolerated health and safety breaches. What’s more, it would not be necessary for the management failure to have been the sole cause of death, so a tenant’s actions in starting this fire would not exonerate those responsible for inadequate safety measures.

The ConversationFor now, London is in mourning. But when the immediate phase has passed, the law will turn its attention to those who may be responsible, and see that justice is carried out.

Ioannis Glinavos, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Westminster

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why train face-to-face in an online world?

For all the benefits of having the world of knowledge stored in your pocket, why is face-to-face training still ‘a thing’? Why do countless organisations still undertake face-to-face training - and is there a place for instructor-led training  and online...

Soldiering On? Codeine Products Now Prescription Only.

Is your workforce “soldiering on” through colds, flu and pain with products that contain codeine? From 1 Feb 2018 they'll need a prescription for over-the-counter medicines containing codeine. This has implications for organisations who conduct drug and...

Leadership Excellence at Downer (LEaD1)

Downer is the leading provider of integrated services in Australia and New Zealand. It works closely with its customers to design, build and sustain assets, infrastructure and facilities. The Group employs approximately 56,000 people across more than 300...

10 Insider Tips to Rock Your Presentations

From Toolbox Talk To Boardroom Squawk – 10 Insider Tips to Rock Your Presentations Whether you’re a leader, salesperson or trainer, at some stage most of us need to deliver a presentation at work or do some public speaking. Great presenting skills help us...

Low “Near Miss” Reporting – Good Sign or Failure?

We have a range of programs that will train your people in hazard identification and risk management which we can tailor specifically to your industry organisational needs. Training can be taken as individual training program (download our course outlines...

5 Ways to Improve Your Chances of Winning Tenders

What does it take to win large pieces of work? At Safety & Leadership Dimensions, we work closely with companies in their tender process and often get asked to partner on large tenders as part of their winning tender team. Here’s what we see makes a successful tender...

The 8 Skills Successful Leaders Need In 2018

Melissa Williams, CEO Learning Dimensions Network After a conversation with Leadership Dimensions Managing Partner Janet McCulloch, we have been reflecting on the topic of leadership. Let’s face it, being a leader today is a challenge. As we enter 2018 our...

Training counts towards Major Projects Skills Guarantee in Vic

In a directive from the Victorian State Government, all of Victoria's major publicly funded works over $20 million must use local apprentices, trainees or engineering cadets for at least 10% of the project's total labour hours under the Major Projects Skills...

Is My TAE40110 Cert IV in Training and Assessment Still Relevant?

In early April 2016 a new Training and Assessment training package was released by training governing body ASQA. TAE40110 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment has been superseded by TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment which will now be...

Work-related traumatic injury fatalities 2016

These annual reports provide details on the number of people who have died in Australia from work-related injuries, including those that occurred while travelling to and from work and bystanders killed as a result of another person’s work activity. The reports are...