Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Limited was found guilty of corporate manslaughter in the first conviction of its kind. The company was charged under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 which came into force in April 2008. A director of Cotswold was originally charged with gross negligence but the court stayed those charges due to his ill health. An employee died at the bottom of a trial pit when the walls collapsed on him. The company had ignored well recognised industry guidance about excavations and supervision on site. The company was fined £385,000 with 10 years to pay.

Key point: Employers should review carefully their health and safety practice procedures to ensure they not only have safe working practices in place but also that their employees are properly trained to undertake their duties. The Court can order a company to put details of its conviction on their website and inform their customers which could pose a substantial reputational risk, dwarfing any fine.