Start-ups with vans running risk of corporate manslaughter

Nearly half of UK businesses with vans unaware of offence, study finds

Start-ups and small businesses in the UK with vans are running the risk of criminal sanction and unlimited fines, as a study finds 45% of UK businesses with vans are completely unaware of the term ‘corporate manslaughter’.

The study of 300 van-owning businesses across the UK conducted by insurers AXA also found that alongside the general lack of awareness among firms there were potentially dangerous attitudes in relation to vehicle maintenance, poor administration of vital paperwork and a casual attitude towards unchecked damage to core van bodywork – all failures that may lead to a charge of corporate manslaughter.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, which came into force in April 2008, makes it possible to launch criminal prosecutions against private companies if the way in which its activities are organised or conducted cause a person’s death. The penalties under the Act include an unlimited fine – a potentially disastrous sanction for small firms.

In response to the study, AXA recommended businesses conduct weekly checks of tyre pressure and fluid levels in their vans as well as checking the paperwork of any employees who drive them, including their insurance and license. If employees are using their own vehicles for company use employers should also check whether they have business insurance cover on their motor insurance.

Darrell Sansom, managing director at AXA Business Insurance, said: “Corporate Manslaughter is a very serious charge that carries an unlimited fine. While the number of businesses who are simply unaware of its existence is alarming, our research shows that negligence is apparent among those who are both aware and unaware.

“We want to warn businesses that keeping on top of relevant Health and Safety legislation is vital to avoid leaving themselves exposed. “Sadly as an insurer we all too often see the results of people failing to comply with rules and regulations designed to keep road-users safe. And while we know that often there is no intent to break the rules we also know that complacency can carry a very heavy price-tag.”

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