Health and safety disaster results in criminal court appearance for company officials

by Direct2Lawyers on February 10, 2013

  • SumoMe

This Is South Wales reports that a number of employees of the company which owned the Gleision mine and colliery have appeared in court after both they and the company were charged with various counts of corporate manslaughter and gross negligence manslaughter

The manager of the Gleision mine, Mr Malcolm Fyfield, 57, appeared at the Cardiff Magistrates’ Court this month after he was charged with gross negligence manslaughter by the police. The Criminal Prosecution Service have subsequently decided to pursue Mr Fyfield on the charge. The company that he worked for – MNS Mining Ltd – has also been charged with corporate manslaughter and two directors of the company have appeared as representatives of the company in the Magistrates’ Court.

Disaster struck at the Gleision mine in September 2011 when there was a sudden collapse of the mine. Mr Fyfield managed to escape from the mine but four miners were trapped and perished in the collapse.

What is gross negligence manslaughter?

Gross negligence manslaughter occurs where a death is caused by a grossly negligent act or omission on the part of a person. There are four things which must be shown for a  person to be convicted:

  1. That a duty of care to the deceased existed; and
  2. That there was a breach of that duty of care; and
  3. That the breach of duty caused (or significantly contributed to) the death of the deceased; and
  4. That the breach should be characterised as gross negligence, and therefore a crime.

What is corporate manslaughter?

Corporate manslaughter occurs if an organisation is guilty of an offence in the way in which its activities are managed or organised which:

  • Causes a person’s death; and
  • Amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased

Companies, polices forces, partnerships and trade unions (among others) are defined as “organisations” for the purposes of the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007.

Why it’s important to get your health and safety processes right

The reason why Health and Safety is such an important issue in the workplace is because it potentially avoids the risk of employee’s hurting themselves or being hurt by poor workplace practices. This decreases the risk of civil litigation, increases productivity, and boosts morale in the workplace. Further, it also avoids the potential risk of criminal prosecution if an employee is seriously hurt or killed by a feature of the workplace, a workplace practice or the negligence of an employee. A prosecution under the Health and Safety At Work etc. Act 1974 or under the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act is clearly a serious matter and one which businesses aim to avoid liability for.

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