From 6 April, 2008, both private and public sector organisations can be held responsible for corporate manslaughter and companies of any size could face an unlimited fine if found guilty.
The offence, brought in by the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, will require courts to look at both the management systems and practices across the whole organisation if there has been a fatal accident in a workplace.
For the organisation to be found guilty of corporate manslaughter, a substantial part of the failure within the organisation must have been at senior level. Courts will look for a gross breach of duty of care to the deceased.
However, the new offence of corporate manslaughter does not require organisations to comply with new regulatory standards. But the Ministry of Justice advises companies to "ensure they are taking proper steps to meet current legal duties".
The Act will mean that: "Those who disregard the safety of others at work, with fatal consequences, are more vulnerable to very serious criminal charges."
The Act also provides for courts to impose a publicity order, which requires the organisation in question to publicise details of its conviction and fine.
For more information and advice on the corporate manslaughter legislation, see [http://www.justice.gov.uk].