Thompsons Solicitors has echoed calls for higher numbers of prosecutions of employers by the Health and Safety Executive. But the firm says, on Workers Memorial Day (28 April), that only a new Corporate Manslaughter law can turn the tide of health and safety in favour of working people.

Over 220 people were killed in workplace accidents in the UK in 2006. Many thousands more died because of occupational diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.

But with reports that the HSE is planning to cut jobs and spending over the next year, the number of prosecutions will fall still further, Thompsons partner Mick Antoniw has warned.

Antoniw, who acts for a number of families whose loved ones have been killed in workplace accidents, said: “Reports that the HSE is planning to shed up to 350 jobs and cut spending by £8 million over the next 12 months brings home still harder the need for the Corporate Manslaughter Bill currently before parliament.

Workplace Accidents

“It is clear from Thompsons own investigations of workplace accidents, when we are instructed by injured or bereaved people, that employers are not being prosecuted and that enforcement notices issued by the HSE are not being adhered to.

“That is why the government’s Corporate Manslaughter Bill, which is soon to become law, is welcome. While it doesn’t provide everything we and the trade unions wanted, it does introduce remedial orders, a form of corporate probation, which will give the courts powers to force companies to take the steps necessary to prevent similar accidents occurring again. If it helps to turn the tide of health and safety in favour of workers and makes companies put safety before profit, perhaps workers memorial day really will become a tribute to the past rather than a warning for the future.”