Directors in the Spotlight of Enforcement Action

One of the recent developments in environmental, health and safety (EHS) regulations has been to focus attention on the responsibilities of corporate management. Directors increasingly face personal sanctions in the event of poor or ineffective management of EHS issues in the United Kingdom. These sanctions vary in severity and range from the imposition of fines to loss of job, disqualification, or even imprisonment. Similar initiatives in other countries confirm the trend. EHS issues are being pushed on to the agenda of the board of directors. The recent developments in the United Kingdom will be analysed and compared with similar developments in other countries. How do multinational corporations need to respond to these developments and what are the implications of these developments for EHS managers?

1. Developments in the United Kingdom

What do Mr David Downton1 and Mr Norman Stewart2 have in common? They are both corporate directors who were personally condemned for not fulfilling their obligations under health and safety law and are listed as such on the HSE Public Register of Convictions. What do they have in common with British Petroleum (BP) that received a fine of GBP 1,000,000 for its Grangemouth refinery3? They are both a practical outcome of the tougher approach to enforcing EHS requirements and the particular attention paid to corporate management in this regard.

1.1 Revitalising Health and Safety Strategy

When analysing the recent developments in occupational health and safety enforcement action, a key starting point is the Strategy Statement 'Revitalising Health and Safety'4 launched by the Health and Safety Commission and the Government on 7 June 2000. By the year 2010 it aims to achieve the following targets:

  • 30% reduction in the incidence of working days lost from work-related injury and ill-health,
  • 20% reduction in the incidence of people suffering from work-related illhealth, and 
  • 10% reduction in the rate of fatal and major injuries.

There is an additional target of achieving half of each improvement by the year 2004.

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