University of Leicester
Civil Safety and Security Unit
Name: Emmanuel Andres ARTUSA
Student Number: 139048615
Course: MSc in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management
Essay Title: Can legalistic mechanisms such as “corporate liability” be effectively used to promote organisational safety? Use two specific cases to illustrate your argument.
Intake: Sept 2013
Submission Date: 09/12/2013
Word Count: 3.652
Tittle: Can legalistic mechanisms such as “corporate liability” be effectively used to promote organisational safety? Use two specific cases to illustrate your argument.
Since corporations became a key player in today´s economy, there have been many cases where the misconduct, wrongdoings or negligent acts of these corporations have caused major personal injury and even the loss of lives on a large scale - incidents which have involved their own employees, their clients and the communities where they operate. Such incidents have triggered debate among the public and jurists as to whether corporations as a whole should not be held criminally liable for the way in which they manage their risks and design their organisational safety as opposed to imposing liability solely on individuals within an organisation.
Relevant to this debate is the consideration of whether risk-management regimes should be more or less blame oriented. Those in favour of a blame oriented approach believe that imposing severe financial and legal liability for risk on corporate decision-makers would help to promote proactive and effective organizational safety in order to avoid such disasters (Hood & Jones, 1996: 46).
Following this approach, this paper will present the idea that the perception of potential liability, based on previous litigation, by an organisation´s top management team can influence the adoption of a positive safety culture, following a blame-oriented approach.
The essay will use and describe two case studies, from the UK and Canada respectively: the capsizing of the ferry Herald of Free Enterprise in Zeebrugge, Belgium in 1987 and the case of the collapse of a swing stage, leading to the death of four Metron Construction Inc. workers, in Toronto, Canada in 2009. They are significant because both represent the first time in the two countries that a company was sued for corporate manslaughter and criminal negligence, respectively.
The essay concludes with the argument that both reforms in the UK and Canada have raised the concern among organisations and senior management that they could be charged for corporate manslaughter and criminal negligence, facing high financial penalties, and potentially custodial sentences (although this is considered rare), resulting in significant damage to their reputation and public image, or even facing insolvency if the financial penalty is high enough.
Key terminologies used in this essay include the following.
The paper will use the meaning of “corporate liability” according to an online dictionary namely Business Dictionary “the legal responsibility of a corporation for criminal actions, or the failure to act in some cases, committed by the company's employees”. Following this definition, it establishes that “If the actions were done for the benefit of the company, are a result of negligence or if they occurred due to a lack of responsible management by the company, the corporation can be prosecuted and punished”.
Central to understanding the term ‘safety culture’ is the meaning of each word respectively. The term safety is understood as “the state of being safe, exemption from hurt or injury, freedom from danger…the quality of being unlikely to cause hurt or injury; freedom from dangerousness; safeness..:” Shorter Oxford (1973, quoted in Institute of Lifelong Learning, 2011: 4-7) while culture can be seen as “a concept that describes the shared corporate values within an organisation which...
Bibliography: -Eversheds (2013) “Corporate manslaughter: where’s the proof?”, Health and Safety at work, April 5, Available online at
http://www.healthandsafetyatwork.com/hsw/corporate-manslaughter/wheres-the-proof; accessed 29 October, 2013
-Hood, C. and Jones, D. K. C. (1996) Accident and design. Contemporary debates in risk management, London, Routledge.
-Institute of Lifelong Learning (2008) Msc in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management, Module I
-O’Loan, M. (2012)“Corporate Manslaughter: Half a million reasons to take action”. Cleaver Fulton Rankin. Available online at http://www.cfrlaw.co.uk/fs/doc/articles/corporate-manslaughter.pdf; accessed 1 November, 2013.
-Pidgeon, N. & O’Leary, M. (2000). Man-made disasters: why technology and organizations
-PLC UK Corporate, “Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007: a quick guide”, PLC UK Law Department, Thompson Reuters, available online at http://uk.practicallaw.com/5-376-0311?source=relatedcontent#null; accessed 25 October, 2013.
-Schein, E. (1992) (3rd Ed), “Organizational Culture and Leadership”, San Francisco, Jossey Bass.
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-Wells, C. (1995) ´Criminal law, blame and risk: Corporate Manslaughter´ in Hood, C. and Jones, D. K. C. (1996) Accident and design. Contemporary debates in risk management, London, Routledge: 50-60.
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