Corporate responsibility for industrial incidents
Commercial activity has the potential to cause harm to those involved in the production and delivery process. Ensuring the health and safety of the workforce is an intrinsic part of responsible business practice and is an area that has long been subject to legal regulation in developed countries. At present, the issue of corporate responsibility for industrial incidents is a matter which is almost exclusively dealt with at the national level and so the legal protections available can vary greatly from country to country. International controls are few, although there is a growing impetus to ensure that the regulatory net is cast more widely at the international level. (An example is the 1992 Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, which was designed to protect people and the environment from the effects of industrial accidents.)
Section 1 of this course will consider workplace incidents in the United Kingdom.
Section 2 of this course will outline the development of civil liability for workplace incidents in the UK.
In Section 3 you will focus on the efforts to pursue criminal accountability for industrial deaths in the UK in the form of the offence of ‘corporate manslaughter’. Such an Anglo-centric focus is of value, as the UK was the first nation to become industrialised and so was first faced with these issues some 150 years ago. The UK’s history reveals the evolution of legal accountability (both civil and criminal) for industrial incidents and highlights issues commonly encountered in imposing legal liability in this area. Many of the principles developed have subsequently been adopted and improved upon by other nations around the world. However, corporate accountability for workplace incidents still remains undeveloped and ignored in some developing nations, making them attractive for commercial exploitation by multinational enterprises (MNEs). The UK’s experience provides a good starting point with which to benchmark the nature and adequacy of the legal protections offered in other nations.
In Section 4 the focus will broaden to encompass the international context. You will consider the interrelationship of the development of legal controls on business with international and human rights principles and with emerging corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies.
Section 5 then uses the Bhopal case study to shed light on a more global view of the issue of legal accountability for industrial incidents.
This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course.