The campaign for tougher laws in the United Kingdom to hold company directors to account for negligent health and safety practices has begun with the first reading in Parliament of the Health and Safety (Director Duties) Bill, reports the UK-based

The bill would fix a general duty on all company directors — and large companies would have to appoint a director at board level to be responsible for health and safety.

Under the bill, companies would face not just fines, but the prospect of jail time for directors where serious health and safety breaches or negligence has resulted in death.

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), seven out of ten workplace fatalities might result from management failures. UK law imposes health and safety obligations on employees and members of the public, but it places no similar obligations on company directors.

A voluntary code introduced by the HSE to improve boardroom understanding of safety at work has prompted only 37 percent of company boards to discuss workplace accidents and ill health.

A state of "legalized ignorance" now favors directors when it comes to health and safety, says the bill's sponsor. "[The] bill is about promoting a responsibility culture in the boardroom — it is first and foremost about preventing accidents which devastate the lives of ordinary people."