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Health & Safety Professionals In Favour Of Imprisonment

Health & Safety Professionals In Favour Of Imprisonment

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, 5 February 2013

How should company directors and senior corporate executives be punished for severe breaches of workplace health and safety standards resulting in death?

The 48 health and safety practitioners who took part in Safeguard magazine’s recent online survey were clear: 77% were in favour of having imprisonment as an option should a new offence of corporate manslaughter be introduced.

Respondents were less certain about which agency should be able to pursue corporate manslaughter charges, with 46% saying the health and safety regulator and 40% opting for the police.

The question of corporate manslaughter has come up for discussion in the wake of the Pike River mine disaster.

Most survey respondents – 88% – were already aware section 56 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act already provides for imprisonment of senior company officers for up to two years, though no one has ever been jailed for a health and safety offence in the 20 years the HSE Act has been in effect.

However, only 31% of respondents felt that a new corporate manslaughter offence would help reduce workplace fatalities, while 60% would prefer the regulator make more use of section 56 rather than have a new, separate offence of corporate manslaughter.

As well as a full survey analysis, the latest Jan/Feb 2013 edition of Safeguard also contains:

• A Bay of Plenty health & safety consultant calls the ethics of the profession into question;
• Two lawyers explain how a recent court decision limits the extent to which a company acting as a principal (in a construction project, for example) must monitor the safety of the technical aspects of work they have contracted to others.
• The CEO of the Institute of Directors welcomes the development of a code of practice for health & safety governance but cautions against a one-size-fits-all approach.
• Half a dozen experienced health & safety trainers give their tips for making training a worthwhile experience which really makes a difference.
• The former head of the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee – abolished by the current Government – says the previous Government’s Minister of Labour, Ruth Dyson, abolished the former OSH service of the Department of Labour because of union lobbying that OSH would be more effective if it was merged into wider Department employment relations operations.

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