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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April, 2005, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Call to tighten work death laws
Men at work sign
Workplaces can prove fatal in the wrong circumstances
A firm of personal injury lawyers is calling on the next UK government to bring in stricter laws on corporate manslaughter.

Thompsons Solicitors made the call to co-incide with Workers' Memorial Day, which remembers those killed at work.

It wants a draft bill, which fell due to lack of time before the election, to be resurrected and amended.

Cardiff solicitor Mick Antoniw called for a "significant increase" in penalties against negligent employers.

Thompsons wants higher fines for convictions for corporate manslaughter, including fines linked to profitability, and a legal duty on directors to comply with health and safety legislation.

It said the draft bill in the form it was originally presented would be unlikely to have any significant impact on accidents and deaths without being amended.

The firm is also calling for increased resources for the Health and Safety Executive.

The legislation will need to be much stronger if it is to be effective
Mick Antoniw

In the past five years to 2004, according to Thompsons, there have been 2,157 deaths at work.

In 2003/4 there were 233 fatal injuries, an increase of 4% on the previous year.

Mr Antoniw said: "We welcome the proposal by the government to bring in a new law of corporate manslaughter.

Training

"However, the legislation will need to be much stronger if it is to be effective, as the draft bill as it stands provides only the bare minimum to justify calling it a corporate manslaughter bill.

"It creates the offence only. There will need to be a significant increase in fines and penalties against employers who through their negligence cause death or injury in the workplace."

He cited the case of 17-year-old Daniel Dennis from Bridgend, who was killed at work in an accident in April 2003 in Cwmbran.

I can remember my wife phoning me in work and as soon as she said Daniel, I knew
Peter Dennis

Daniel was in the second week at work in his first job working for a roofing contractor.

He had no training or experience in working at height, and was killed falling through a skylight.

An inquest jury in March returned a finding of unlawful killing. His case is now being referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Daniel's parents Peter and Anthea Dennis have called for stronger penalties for companies found responsible for deaths and injuries at work.

Mr Dennis said it was hard to live without Daniel, who had enjoyed his first few days of work.

"He didn't stop talking when he came home, what he was going to do, how much money he was can earn," he said.

"I can remember my wife phoning me in work and as soon as she said Daniel, I knew - he was in intensive care and he had a very severe head injury and he had internal bleeding but they couldn't stablise him."

Mrs Dennis said that living without Daniel was "an existence" she got used to.

"It's not the life you had before and it never will be," she said.


SEE ALSO:
Law change delay 'could backfire'
23 Apr 05 |  Scotland
A law of unintended consequences?
23 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Company manslaughter law drafted
23 Mar 05 |  UK Election 2005


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