The economic climate has forced businesses to cut costs. It has been an essential step for survival of most businesses and a way to ensure that the organisation has a future. However cutting costs can have implications as far as an organisations legal obligations are concerned.
An organisation is guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes the death of a person and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care to the deceased.
The offence is designed to target those organisations which cut costs by taking unjustifiable risks with people’s safety. If found guilty of the offence, not only will the fines be substantial but also the publicity an organisation gets could permanently damage its goodwill.
The organisation has an obligation to take reasonable steps to protect a person’s safety. The duties, amongst others things, exist in respect of the systems of work and equipment used by employees.
Should a death occur, the systems of work and equipment will be subject to close scrutiny and the attitudes or culture of high tolerance levels for regular breaches will face much criticism and have an adverse impact on the organisations legal position.
Proper training, supervision and monitoring can have a positive impact, amongst other things; on the position of any organisation should death have occurred.
In many respects the systems put in place to protect an organisation from criticism can be organisation specific and expert advice ought to be secured.
Cutting costs in the area of health and safety at work could be said to be taking unnecessary risks with an organisations future or even gambling with it.
There are of course areas in businesses where costs can be cut legitimately and this simply is not one of them.