Page last updated at 08:17 GMT, Sunday, 6 April 2008 09:17 UK

Worry over corporate killing laws

Men on scaffolding
The STUC is worried about how many people die at work

Union leaders have expressed concern about the effectiveness of new laws on corporate homicide in Scotland.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 24 workers were killed and 2,702 people were seriously injured at their workplace in the year 2006/7.

New Corporate Homicide legislation is introduced on Sunday but the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) already has concerns.

It said workers have been let down by Holyrood and Westminster.

The new act aims to tackle organisations in which standards have fallen far below what could have been reasonably expected.

Although individuals will not be liable under the new law, prosecutions for corporate homicide will look into management systems and practices across the organisation in question.

This legislation will not allow for prosecution of individuals but only of the company
Grahame Smith

An organisation found guilty of the new offence will be liable to an unlimited fine, possibly up to 10% of annual turnover averaged over the previous three years.

STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith said: "Trade unions have fought and campaigned for over a decade for laws to be brought in that deliver justice for families who needlessly lose loved ones as a result of negligent decisions and poor working practices taken and implemented by company directors and senior management.

"While this legislation is being peddled as the machinery to deliver that justice for bereaved families, it is clear that the governments in both Westminster and in Holyrood have let down the families of workers killed by their employers.

"This legislation will not allow for prosecution of individuals but only of the company. Even then, only if the failures of a senior manager can be identified".

Mr Smith said that for the STUC, and the victim's families, this was a fudge of the "controlling mind" test that had made the prosecution of companies so difficult in the past".

Figures for Scotland also reveal that seven self employed people died in work place accidents in 2006/7 and 73 were seriously injured.

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