Controlling Corporate Manslaughter Risk Through Effective Lone Worker Solutions
on: March 19, 2010, 10:23 am
With the recent drastic increase in the consequences for firms
contravening health and safety legislation, Tom Morton, CEO of Argyll,
the UK’s largest lone worker solutions provider, advises why
organisations should mitigate their risks associated with lone working.
The release of new sentencing guidelines for courts (issued by the Sentencing
Guidelines Council in February 2010) have raised the stakes for companies convicted
of corporate manslaughter offences. The new law applies to every organisation within
the UK and provides an effective route to securing a conviction in the event of a
fatality, if it can be proved that a company was in breach of the ‘Duty of Care’
owed by the organisation to its workers by virtue of the way in which its activities
are managed or organised. In addition to the existing threat of civil actions being
taken by staff, unions or family members, and the costs of defending any action
taken, the fine recommended for a public corporate manslaughter prosecution to be
imposed on any business is now £500,000 or greater. Not only will the organisation
face this unprecedented fine, but it may also be burdened with the additional costs
of a remedial order and a publicity order.
Fines of this scale can have a devastating impact on small and medium-sized
businesses with modest turnover and profit figures. In the case of very large
businesses, the fines issued could be much higher than this minimum and the
guideline suggests these will reach into millions of pounds.
However, these financial penalties are only part of the story. Courts are also
empowered to issue remedial orders, requiring businesses to address any specific
health and safety failures that it hasn't already dealt with, but the final coup de
grace is potentially the most damaging element of any corporate manslaughter
sentence: the publicity order.
A business served with such an order is required to make a public announcement
giving details of the offence committed and the financial penalty imposed. The court
will dictate how this announcement must be made but it is expected that national and
local press announcements and a message on the business's own website will be usual
practice. The reputational damage caused by a publicity order could end up costing
businesses (especially large household names) far more, and take much longer to
recover from, than any financial penalty the court can issue. The potential costs of
complying with a remedial order and publicity order will not be taken into account
by the court in setting the fine and will be a further drain on businesses that may
already be facing unprecedented financial pressure.
In the 2008 TUC safety representatives survey, working alone was the sixth main
hazard of concern for safety representatives. Recent research shows that 1.3 million
people are attacked in the UK every year at work and assaults are increasing by 5%
every two years. The rise in workplace violence now costs UK industry hundreds of
millions of pounds in compensation and the loss of more than 3 million working days
Health & Safety has been pushed to the top of the corporate agenda by the newly
introduced legislation that threaten grave legal and financial consequences for
those not exercising an adequate ‘Duty of Care’ for staff exposed to risk whilst
operating as Lone Workers. In a nutshell, Trustees and Directors must consider every
possibility when assessing the risk faced by Lone Workers and including the impact
risk to the organisation.
In light of these radical changes to the way in which corporate killing offences
will be dealt with by the courts, and because of the increasing focus on health &
safety, many organizations are investigating technical means of controlling risks
and considering the use of a dedicated lone worker device or service to respond
easily and quickly to emergencies. It is clear that solutions need to be found
however, whoever is charged with overseeing health and safety issues must therefore
seek appropriate professional advice and irrespective of the organisations
commercial status or the probability of the risks encountered by lone workers,
employers must ensure compliance with the tightening legislation.
The Internet is awash with companies offering lone worker devices or software or
response services that appear to offer mobile phone capability; sophisticated
man-down detection and/or dedicated SOS buttons; some are connected to call centres,
some rely on the purchaser providing monitoring services and some utilize satellite
technology to obtain precise location data that can be used for resource management
or during incident response handling. However the sheer volume of these vendors, all
offering apparently ‘similar’ devices and services will of course only add to the
confusion. This is why BSI (the British Standards Institute) has publishedBS8484, a
new lone worker devices and services standard developed in conjunction with
customers such as NHS; stakeholders within the security industry and key suppliers
within the lone worker industry. BS8484 provides a definitive benchmark that enables
an employer to assess devices, services and response providers using an acknowledged
industry standard that contains minimum features, fail-safes and service provider
propriety checks that will reduce an employers exposure to risk. Significantly, this
new lone worker standard has already been adopted by ACPO (Association of Chief
police Officers) meaning that only solutions complying with BS8484 and the
associated Alarm Receiving Centre standard, BS5979 CATII, will be permitted to
receive a Police response for lone worker alarms.
Recent research shows that 1.3 million people are attacked in the UK every year at
work and assaults are increasing by 5% every two years. The rise in workplace
violence now costs UK industry hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation and
the loss of more than 3 million working days each year.
With the rising number of attacks against lone workers resulting in higher and more
frequent compensation demands, Insurance companies are very aware that employers
operating robust health and safety policies present lower risk business for them.
Many insurers are actively engaging in risk management services and requesting
companies to tighten up on their health and safety policy, particularly if they
employ lone workers. This, together with growing legislation and punitive
consequences means that companies and organisations need to review their health and
safety procedures and in particular reassess their lone worker protection strategy.
For more information please contact Argyll on 0870 750 1475 or