A recent corporate manslaughter case highlights potential liability for developers.

Whilst the security and safety of a construction site is generally the responsibility of the appointed principal contractor, developers can be liable for a breach of health and safety resulting in death. A June 2016 case has highlighted the importance of securing the perimeter of a site where two men ‘fooling around’ died after they fell through the hoardings securing a construction site in London. The hoardings collapsed when the men fell on to them. The principal contractor responsible for the site has been fined over half a million pounds for the corporate manslaughter of the men.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is designed to hold organisations to account for systemic failings which are considered negligent and which result in a death. Since the Act came into force, 15 companies have either pleaded or been found guilty of corporate manslaughter; over half of which were the result of a death on a construction site. Under new sentencing guidelines, fines can be up to £20 million depending on the size of the company and the seriousness of the breach.

Although in this instance the principal contractor was responsible for the hoardings, our concern is that during periods of inactivity on sites, the maintenance and responsibility for hoardings can transfer to the developer. We therefore urge developers to consider the possibility that they may have residual health and safety obligations especially when construction has been going for a number of years or where construction has halted.