The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, effective from 6 April, makes convictions easier by removing the need to find a single individual at fault. It also allows courts to impose a potentially unlimited fine on negligent organisations.
According to government estimates, the change, which will affect all incorporated charities, could increase prosecutions tenfold.
Charities should be especially careful when organising fundraising events such as sponsored bungee jumps, sky dives and long distance races, according to Kelly Sinclair, sector leader on charity at insurance broker Aon.
"Charities should make sure they have all the correct training, equipment and safety policies in place to cover any event they organise," she said. "Also think about liability. The buck always ultimately stops with the trustees, but if an agency is organising the event on your behalf, you should make sure it accepts as much liability as possible."
James Price, a disputes lawyer with law firm Farrer & Co, said the legislation could be the most signifi-cant piece of health and safety legislation of the past 30 years. Charities should see the act as a prompt to put their houses in order, he said.
The act will cover about 28,000 charitable organisations. However, many smaller charities will not be affected because the law deals only with incorporated bodies.