IOSH accountability policy

IOSH believes forward thinking organisations are led by Directors (and their equivalents) who provide leadership and direction on effective occupational health and safety and deliver a culture for protecting lives and improving reputation, resilience and results.

We supported improved guidance to help Directors with their health and safety responsibilities. We also supported the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 and the definitive guidelines on sentencing as deterrents to poor corporate health and safety standards.

The facts

  • Directors of organisations (and their equivalents) who provide leadership and direction on effective occupational health and safety can deliver a culture for protecting lives and improving reputation, resilience and results.

  • Directors have both individual and collective, in the case of Boards, responsibilities for the governance and risk management of the organisation.

  • Individual directors can be personally liable under health and safety law if their failures mean the organisation commits an offence and, under common law, if their grossly negligent behavior causes death.

  • Directors can also be 'disqualified' if convicted of health and safety offences.

  • The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 means that where gross failures cause someone's death, the organisations responsible can more easily be held to account. When sentencing for breaches, courts can unlimited fines and publicity or remedial orders.

  • The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 removed the cap on fine levels for the majority of health and safety offences within Magistrates Courts.

  • Sentencing guidelines for England and Wales – the Health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences – definitive guideline came into effect in 2016.

Our position

IOSH believes that responsible Directors see the value in ensuring good occupational health and safety, which the IOSH Li£e Saving Campaign helps to highlight. Research has shown that good work is good not only for worker health and wellbeing, but has also been linked to higher productivity, profitability and customer and worker loyalty.

The key to effective health and safety management and positive culture is leadership from the top. We strongly supported the case for improved guidance for directors on their health and safety duties and helped develop and promote the Leading health and safety at work document. We've also called for enforceable directors' health and safety duties, including in our submission to the Löfstedt review of health and safety legislation.

We supported the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act in April 2008 as a deterrent to poor corporate health and safety standards. We believe that removing the need to find an individual culpable will help the prosecution of negligent large organisations where gross management failure leads to death. We've advocated that the courts use 'wide-ranging' remedial orders to help make sure essential health and safety system and culture improvements are made.

The increase in penalties for health and safety offences sends a strong message to employers that health and safety offences are treated just as seriously as other breaches. It also helps make the business case for good health and safety and ensure that organisations rightly view health and safety as an investment and not a cost.

IOSH provides a number of tools to support health and safety leadership and competence development within organisations, see www.iosh.co.uk/Books-and-resources.aspx and the IOSH Blueprint competence and skills framework.

Relevant IOSH consultation responses