Farmers have been warned to make health and safety a top priority on their farms after changes to the Corporate Manslaughter Act came into effect this week (6 April).

The new Act will place greater responsibility on businesses to make sure strict health and safety practices are put in place.

Failure to do so could result in companies being forced to publicise their failings, or even being fined up to 10% of their annual turnover if a death occurs as a result of “gross management failure”.

NFU Mutual spokesman Tim Price said farmers who already run their businesses with a strong emphasis on health and safety should not be worried about the new legislation.

“If, however, health and safety hasn’t been treated as a top priority, then it definitely should be now,” he said.

“The Act makes it easier for prosecutions, not just for people at the top of the company but now people at other levels of the organisation. And the Act can affect all areas of agricultural business.”

Mr Price said NFU Mutual’s risk management service, which produces on-farm safety assessments, had seen an increase in business over the past six months.

“We are sure this has been due to concern over this new legislation and the possibility of prosecution.”

Changes in the new Act are:

  • Liability is now on the company rather than individuals
  • The prosecution will be handled by the police rather than the Health and Safety Executive
  • The Act brings a range of new penalties, including publicising the results of a finding if there is a guilty verdict.