LCShub, leadership, corporate manslaughter, section 37, IoD , health and safety, Liverpool

Director or Senior Manager? How are you measuring up ?

8 February 2020

Too many senior managers still tend to regard health and safety as a low level, regulatory compliance restriction, rather than a key strategic aspect of business performance.

LCS strives to raise awareness of the need for effective board level and senior management leadership of health and safety management. We want to create and support boards to set targets, review progress and report periodically on corporate health and safety performance. 

A challenge still exists to enhance the competence of organisations (and in particular of managers) to address health and safety as an integral part of business management. 

Despite the success of publications such as HSG65, there is evidence that many organisations are failing to understand the position of health and safety in relation to total quality management (TQM) and business excellence models or the potential of such models to inform and improve their approach to health and safety management. Leadership and continuous improvement with respect to health and safety is often far behind that for product or service quality and a key influencing factor is insufficient appreciation of the ‘business case’ for H&S at director level.

In part this may be because many directors, particularly those in smaller organisations, have not fully understood or responded to contemporary concepts.  For example, they may:

  • perceive health and safety as a technical and regulatory compliance issue
  • fail to understand the goal setting approach to law
  • see health and safety requirements as over-restrictive or ‘burdensome’
  • wrongly interpret HSE guidance as having prescriptive regulatory force
  • see regulations as being too vague and/or impossible to comply with
  • fail to fully appreciate the ‘business case’ and financial benefits of health and safety 

We want to help leaders recognise and understand the business benefits which high health and safety standards can contribute to commercial success and brand awareness. 

Strengthening the leadership role and influence of board level directors is particularly important, especially so in large organisations because of their potential to influence health and safety in smaller businesses via the supply and contracting chain.

Greater uptake of pro-active risk management is unlikely unless there is increased commitment and understanding to health and safety from senior business leaders. Factors which are likely to stimulate greater director involvement include:

  • ethical considerations
  • official guidance on directors’ H&S roles
  • the ‘business case’ for H&S (including loss of corporate credibility following accidents etc)
  • law and enforcement
  • client pressure
  • trades union and workforce involvement
  • the impact of common law claims
  • shareholder, public and political expectations
  • legislative reform to enhance corporate and director liability; and
  • higher standards of corporate governance

Measuring OS&H Performance receives less board level attention than other business priorities is because of the difficulty in measuring effectiveness in responding to what is a complex, multi-dimensional challenge.

In order to manage health and safety effectively, it is essential that, periodically, organisations should set out a clear and concise account of their performance against strategy for the whole workforce, but especially for managers, safety representatives and health and safety professionals. This is to enable all employees to understand progress in achieving corporate health and safety objectives and for those with management responsibilities to communicate such information to key internal and external parties. 

GoPOP ‘Going Public on Performance’:  is a corporate performance web portal.

Where organisations can report openly their progress in the sphere of occupational safety and health. Doing so not only encourages the reporting organisation to keep improving its standards, but also sets a benchmark against which other organisations can measure their performance.

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act

Although criminal charges brought under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 in the event of a death will relate to corporations and not individuals, significant failure by directors to comply with the guidance – Leading health and safety at work is likely to form an important part of the evidence necessary to secure conviction. It will also be relevant in considering the guilt of any director or senior manager charged with “consent, connivance or neglect” in relation to offences under Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSW Act Section 37).


Leading health and safety at work – Actions for directors, board members, business owners and organisations of all sizes. 

This joint guidance from the Institute of Directors and the HSE, which applies equally to the private, public and voluntary sectors, sets out core actions and suggests good practices which business leaders should take to ensure that health and safety issues are being managed effectively within their organisations and that they are keeping health and safety performance under review. There are three essential principles:

  1. Strong and active leadership from the top
  2. Worker involvement
  3. Assessment and review.

The guidance contains a health and safety leadership checklist which is designed to assist directors in ensuring they are delivering this important agenda within their organisation.

This guidance should also be viewed against the backdrop of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. 


LCS offers a range of services to help boards review and develop their leadership engagement. Visit LCS Hub Leadership.

LCS cannot be held responsible for the accuracy or completeness of any pages on linked websites.

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