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Immediate Release

Safety Body supports positive legal duties on directors in surprise decision.

The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) has asked its civil servants to "explore the possibility of imposing duties on directors" of private sector and public bodies. It rejected advice from the Health and Safety Executive that it should not go down the legislative path and simply produce 'authoritative guidance'.

The HSC made its decision today, Tuesday 6 December, at a meeting held in public.

The decision was supported by both employer representatives and trade unions.

Judith Donovan, representing the interests of small businesses, said that it was "not fair" that the only directors prosecuted for health and safety offences belonged to small companies. She also said that it was a "myth" that directors duties would "increase risk aversion and increase bureaucracy". would be increased paper trail and burdens on businesses. She said "It was a great myth that individuals did not want to become directors as the CBI says".

John Longworth, a Commissioner who is also a director of ASDA, said that there should be a "positive duty" on directors - though it should go hand in hand with a 'due diligence' defence. He said imposing duties on directors for health and safety would bring the law in line with product safety requirements.

David Bergman, Director of the Centre for Corporate Accountability said:

"We are delighted that the Commission has unanimously supported the need for changing the law and imposing positive duties on directors. It is now for the HSE to produce a paper setting out the legislative options and we look forward to being part of the discussion on the nature of the legal change".

The HSC has been asked by the Government for its advice on this issue following a recommendation by the Select Committee on Work and Pensions earlier this year that the law needed to be changed.

Currently, the law does not impose any positive obligations on directors, or their equivalent in public bodies, to take steps to ensure that their organisation complies with health and safety law.

To read previous press release prior to decision, click here


The Centre for Corporate Accountability is a charity advising those bereaved from work-related deaths, and working on issues of safety, law enforcement and corporate accountability.

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Centre for Corporate Accountability

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Page last updated on December 6, 2005