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Seeing Health And Safety From The Jury’s Perspective
Posted by David Cant on October 23, 2014

Seeing Health And Safety From The Jury’s Perspective

A picture of law books and scales of justiceMost businesses do not set out to deliberately circumvent health and safety legislation, or to put their employees’ lives at risk. More often than not breaches occur because bad work habits are tolerated and ignored for so long that they eventually become part of standard operations. In the end employees are placed in danger simply because “this is how we do things here”.

When closely involved with day-to-day operations, these ingrained habits become harder to spot and rectify. Which is why it always helps to look at operations from a different perspective.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is continually working to help businesses re-assess their risks, occasionally taking a somewhat novel approach to provide new perspective. And so it is this week that the Essex branch of the organisation will be running an event entitled “Guilty or not guilty – what’s your verdict?”

The one-day seminar is being run by a group of health and safety lawyers and takes the form of a mock trial that asks attendees to consider the evidence presented in a court case. A prosecutor will present the case against the firm charged with breaching The Health and Safety at Work Act, asking jurors to consider a range of evidence relating to a workplace accident. The defence will then present their own argument, explaining why the firm in question is not guilty.

At the end of the trial, seminar delegates will be asked to vote, just as a jury would, on whether they believe the defendant to be guilty or not guilty. In the event of a guilty verdict, the “judge” will hand down a suitable sentence.

After the conclusion of the trial, delegates will have an opportunity to grill the organising committee to discuss the outcome of the trial and the wider implications for the company involved.

Two valuable lessons

This novel approach gives delegates two valuable insights. Firstly most businesses never have a chance to understand the court process until it is too late and they are involved in a case themselves. By understanding the legal process and how to defend oneself, this event should help business managers understand how to engage with the courts in the event of a workplace accident.

The second benefit of the seminar is that it forces managers to see health and safety issues from another perspective. A jury sees evidence in a health and safety court case from a more neutral standpoint than your company – they cannot (and do not) make allowances for poor safeguards or unsafe operations. And they will convict where there is a problem.

The IOSH Essex event is certainly a novel approach to encouraging re-evaluation of working practices.

So, over to you. What novel approaches has your business used to try and see health and safety issues from a different perspective?


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

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