Open-access content 5th March 2009
Never to be underestimated, the role of FMs to manage risk associated with an occupied building on behalf of staff and contractors has tough legislation at its root
by Vicki Gomersall
12 March 2009
The result of being found guilty of an offence under the corporate manslaughter legislation is that organisations can now face unlimited fines - set to start at 5 per cent of annual turnover - and will be required to implement certain remedial actions and may also be required to publish details of their offences and the penalties implemented.
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force last year and means that for the first time, organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious system failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.
The statistics released earlier this year revealed that more than 241 people were killed at work in the UK in 2006/2007 and 141,350 employees were seriously injured. According to the Health and Safety Executive, this figure is an increase of 11 per cent on the previous year and is a serious concern for the government.
The new legislation is aimed at cases where management failures occur across the organisation. The new offence considers how activities were organised and managed and therefore looks at the systems and practices for carrying out the company's work, level of employee training and adequacy of equipment, supervision and middle management, strategic approach and arrangements for risk assessing, monitoring and auditing the processes. Any single or culmination of failings could result in a breach of duty of care and, even worse, a fatality.
The BSI British standard OHSAS 18001 is a recognised method for promoting a safe and healthy working environment by providing a framework that allows the organisation to consistently identify and control its health and safety risks, reduce the potential for accidents, aid legislative compliance and improve overall performance. Implementation of such a management system can also lead to considerable cost-saving and productivity benefits for the business including reduced sickness, absenteeism and reducing the number of claims made to insurance firms.
Based on the plan-do-check-act model, it requires an organisation to identify risks, set objectives and targets, implement operational controls to manage and minimise those risks and monitor effectiveness of those controls. This will ensure that all hazards and risks are identified, ensuring that you don't miss any hazards out and don't waste time focusing on the lower risk activities. It means all staff are aware of the organisation's commitment to health and safety and understand their responsibilities for their own health and safety. It ensures all staff, including senior management, are competent to carry out their activities relating to health and safety.
A successfully implemented Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) management system affords a logical, comprehensive framework to justify, create and continually improve health and safety program activity. The OHS management system reflects the principles of quality, due diligence and continual improvement and provides for the creation of prevention programs that can be implemented, maintained, documented and verified.
Having a health and safety management system will help FM companies to improve the management of their contractors by providing a robust contractor evaluation process, a consistent approach to contractor management and better monitoring of contractors once on site. It will also help them with awareness and understanding of the statutory health and safety checks (ie, on lifting, ventilation and electricity) and ensuring they are effectively fulfilling their responsibilities on behalf of their client.
The act is an opportunity for employers to think again about how risks are managed, and for organisations to ensure they are taking proper steps to meet current legal duties. Since April 2008, the act means that those who disregard the safety of others at work, with fatal consequences, are more vulnerable to serious criminal charges.
Vicki Gomersall is product marketing manager at BSI Management Systems
Key figures 2007/08
- 2.1 million people were suffering from an illness they believed was caused or made worse by their current or past work
- 229 workers were killed at work, a rate of 0.8 per 100,000 workers
- 136,771 other injuries to employees were reported under Riddor, a rate of 517.9 per 100,000 employees
- 299,000 reportable injuries occurred, according to the Labour Force Survey, a rate of 1,000 per 100,000 workers
- 34 million days were lost overall (1.4 days per worker), 28 million due to work-related ill health and 6 million due to workplace injury