Thompsons Solicitors has called on the Government to legally force company directors to take responsibility for accidents at work. Currently directors are governed by voluntary guidance which can make it difficult to prosecute.

For the first time a leading group of MPs has acknowledged the need for the introduction of statutory director duties to increase workplace safety.

In a recent report the Work and Pensions Select Committee said board level commitment to prioritising health and safety was weak and recommended binding health and safety duties for senior managers and company directors.

Unacceptable number of avoidable workplace accidents and deaths

Tom Jones director of Policy and Public Affairs at Thompsons Solicitors said:

“We welcome this timely report from the Select Committee and urge the Government to act on it quickly.

“Directors are not legally obliged to take responsibility for accidents in their workplace and until they are there will continue to be an unacceptable number of avoidable workplace accidents and deaths.

“Just this week there was a director jailed for three years for the death of a 15-year-old on a construction site but that is very much the exception. Most of the time directors get away scot free when employees are maimed or killed

“It is clear the current voluntary code is not working. Directors must be forced to take accountability - not just pay lip service to the importance of health and safety with their fingers and toes crossed hoping no injuries will occur. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will continue to fail to secure a conviction against those responsible until Boards are made to treat the most fundamental of issues - the health and safety of those they employ - with as much importance as profit margins.

“We are one of the only countries in the world who do not hold named directors or managers responsible for the health and safety of their own employees. It is time the Government listened to its own MPs by taking action to resolve this.”

More than 817,000 were injured at work during 2007/08

An estimated 150 people died in avoidable workplace accidents in the last year. While more than 817,000 were injured at work during 2007/08.

A survey by the HSE found that only 33% of companies surveyed knew that a voluntary code existed despite an estimate that management failure contributes to the death of a worker in 70% of construction fatalities.

The select committee’s report also called for safety requirements to be incorporated into building regulations to help reduce the number of construction accidents.