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Can Safety be Found in Numbers?

Paper number

John Barber

November 2012

A paper presented to the Centre of Construction Law 25th Anniversary Conference held at King's College, London on 28th June 2012

John Barber answers the question he poses in the title by looking at three proposals: first, that individuals and organisations should regard it as a moral and social duty to take steps to avoid causing death or injury to persons through the use of buildings or any work-related activities; secondly, if death or injury results from a workplace activity, appropriate action should be taken against the owner responsible for the situation but sever punishment should be reserved for situations where the person is seriously culpable; thirdly in the event of a workplace death or serious injury, the state should protect the persons involved from popular demands for immediate retribution. His hypothesis, considered with particular regard to recent case law and publications, is that politicians today have lost sight of all three precepts but have adopted an interpretation of 'safety in numbers'.

Introduction - Large fines in fatal accidents - Challenges to Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 section 40 - Judicial practice in fatal accident cases - Judicial experience and attitudes - Guidance on the qualified duty - Conclusions.

The author: is the Director of the Centre of Construction Law, King's College London; he is qualified as both engineer and lawyer and practises as a consulting engineer and adjudicator. He was a member of the Standing Committee on Structural Safety from 1996 to 2002 and a trustee-member of the Hazards Forum from 2009 to 2012.

Text 10 pages