Companies have been advised to ensure their health and safety processes are up to date to avoid prosecution via the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act.

The warning came from lawyers who were talking at the Institution of Occupational Health and Safety conference.

According to lawyers, the act would mean health and safety offences would be treated more seriously by police forces and it would result in greater police intervention.

Steffan Groch, partner and head of regulatory at law firm DWF, said: "You have this window of opportunity to do something to avoid being prosecuted for corporate manslaughter, so I’d look at the culture of your business.

"You have a few years to do this, so get your systems in place in case the unforeseen happens."

The introduction of the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 means that health and safety breaches are now punishable by imprisonment and fines for minor infringements have now increased from £5,000 to £20,000.