Labour MSP proposes changes to death at work laws

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The families of individuals killed due to an employer’s recklessness or gross negligence could be handed greater legal powers to hold them accountable.

The Culpable Homicide Member’s Bill will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday by Scottish Labour MSP Claire Baker.

If passed, the Bill would look to reform the law over fatal workplace incidents.

It argues that although a company can be pursued through health and safety legislation and fined, it is very difficult to convict them of culpable homicide, even when the Lord Advocate recognises the crime and wants to bring forward criminal charges.

Seventeen people have died on average in industrial incidents each year in Scotland over the last five years but there has not been a prosecution under existing legislation in the last decade.

Ms Baker said: “Far too many people in Scotland each year do not return home to their loved ones after going to work.

“It is simply unacceptable, in the 21st century, to have workers dying as a result of negligence or recklessness by their employers.

“Sadly, the law currently does not provide enough protection for workers and that’s why I have launched my private member’s Bill to ensure that is brought to an end.

“New legal avenues for prosecution and statutory punishments would send a clear message to employers that health and safety must be the number one priority for any business.”

Patrick McGuire, of Thompsons Solicitors, said:  “It is a fundamental principle that the law should apply equally to all.

“That principle has never been reflected in the law of culpable homicide, particularly as it applies to companies and organisations.

“We need a clear set of rules that define when both individuals and organisations are guilty of this very serious offence. The rules must put organisational and individual wrongdoers on the same footing before the courts.

“If the proposal finds its way on to the statute book, the prospects of every victim of homicide achieving justice will be improved.”

Ian Tasker, of the organisation Scottish Hazards, said: “Current legislation is failing bereaved families, involuntary deaths should be investigated in the same way, and under the same law regardless of where they happen, in our communities or in the work environment.

“We are sure the trade union movement will get behind this Bill and help to deliver justice for families bereaved by deaths at work”.

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