Where death is caused through culpable carelessness, such as in a road accident, the legal response in many situations is a finding of manslaughter. But until recently the legal system has tended not to resort to this option in cases of death occurring in the workplace. In particular, given the prevalence of the corporate structure among employers, individual company officers have often been able to rely on the 'corporate shield' to avoid being called to account in this way. More recently there have been many calls for company officers to be judged for serious neglect of their duties, leading to the death of workers, in the same way that they would be judged if they were carelessly in control of a motor vehicle and caused the death of another driver. Prosecution authorities, in particular in the United Kingdom, have started to make more use of the general criminal law of manslaughter, rather than simply relying on the specific workplace safety statutes. Arguably there are benefits to this flowing from the community perception that a manslaughter charge is a much more serious business than a 'mere' workplace safety prosecution. This article aims to consider how under the criminal law a company officer might be found to be guilty of either manslaughter or another serious offence as a result of the death of a worker employed by the company.
Flinders Journal of Law Reform Vol. 9, Issue 1, p. 79-111