The Trades Union Congress (TUC) says it would have liked to have seen tougher penalties imposed for the new corporate manslaughter laws which came into force on 6 April 2008, with company directors made personally liable for safety breaches.
Companies, regardless of size, are now at risk of prosecution and conviction if a fatality is found to be caused by a gross breach of a relevant duty of care, and where the conduct of senior management is a substantial cause of that breach.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Too often in the past senior executives have taken an overly casual approach towards the safety of their employees. The catalogue of avoidable workplace deaths in recent years has highlighted in stark terms the need for a new law and for a change of attitude from those at the top of British companies."
Yet Barber said the unions would have preferred to see the new law make individual company directors personally liable for safety breaches at work and for it to have introduced tougher penalties against employers found guilty of workplace safety crimes.
"The new law would be tougher if it were accompanied by a new legal health and safety duty on directors and a requirement on companies to report annually on their workplace safety culture," Barber said.
HR Zone recently reported that many businesses are still unprepared for the new laws.