Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 15:44 UK

Body will probe accidents at work

Emergency workers at ICL Plastics site
The body would investigate incidents such as the ICL Plastics explosion.

A body to investigate accidents in Scottish workplaces has been set up in an effort to improve safety.

The Specialist Health and Safety Division will examine cases reported to the procurator fiscal by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini QC said the creation of the department will produce a concentration of expertise and help to identify bad practice.

In 2006/2007, 31 people died in reported accidents at work in Scotland.

The division, which will start operating in January 2009, will be led by a senior prosecutor overseeing teams of lawyers working in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow.

It will look at a range of work-related accidents, which would include major incidents on the scale of the ICL Plastics explosion and Piper Alpha.

'Bad practice'

Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini QC said: "This is a complex and sensitive area of our work as prosecutors.

"Reports from the HSE to the Procurator Fiscal can range from the tragic loss of life at work, to incidents with potentially life threatening consequences.

"Each case is an opportunity to identify bad, and illegal, practice, to bring to justice those who fail to discharge their responsibilities under and hear and safety law.

"And importantly, to bring all relevant expertise to bear and help create safer work places."

Most important will be the benefits for victims' families in cases where lives are lost.
Grahame Smith, STUC

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) received 89 reports from the HSE, 37 more than the previous year.

Judith Hackitt, chair of the HSE, welcomed the creation of the body.

She said: "Our work with the procurator fiscal almost invariably involves cases of human suffering which have arisen from accidents and incidents in workplaces in Scotland.

"Our joint working in such specialised and sensitive territory can only be enhanced by having a dedicated team of lawyers involved.

The Scottish Trade Unions Congress (STUC) said it also supported the move.

General Secretary Grahame Smith, said: "This will clearly have massive benefits for all stakeholders, but most important will be the benefits for victims' families in cases where lives are lost."

Other areas where the prosecution service adopts a specialist approach include sexual offences, wildlife and environmental crime.

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