Many West Midland directors have still to grasp the implications of a new corporate manslaughter law, which is certain to lead to a substantial increase in the number of prosecutions of companies and potentially unlimited fines.
That is the view of Smita Jamdar, a partner at Birmingham and London law firm Martineau Johnson.
Speaking at a seminar designed to raise awareness of the new law, she said: "The new Act has made it much easier to prosecute a business for major health and safety breaches, where death, whether of employees, customers or others, result from an organisation's actions or omissions."
Ms Jamdar quoted estimates that of approximately 2,000 commercially related deaths in the last decade, around 800 could have led to prosecutions if the new law had been in place.
Only around 34 were prosecuted and convicted under the old rules.
"Previously, prosecutions were made more difficult because the authorities had to lay the blame on specific individuals in the company when tragedies like train crashes or industrial accidents occurred," said Ms Jamdar.
"Now, if the way that corporate activities are organised amounts to a gross breach of a duty of care, prosecution and huge fines can follow if death occurs, as well as the alarming prospect of being ordered to publicise the conviction.
"The adverse publicity which will inevitably follow could cause even more damage to the company's reputation and have more impact even than the fine."
The new law applies widely to businesses, charities and public bodies such as government departments, NHS Trusts and the police.
It is possible that NHS trusts that fail to take appropriate preventative measures against hospital transmitted bugs could be prosecuted.
There are only limited exemptions, which include policy decisions on public funding for public services where cash shortages causes death.
The Health and Safety Executive will see their already powerful position strengthened by the new law.
This will lead to a dilemma.
Ms Jamdar said: "Where a death is caused by a breach of a relevant duty of care, there may be a prosecution under health and safety law as well as for corporate manslaughter.
"Health and safety prosecutions are nearly always successful with over 90 per cent leading to a conviction. If you plead guilty to a health and safety breach, you obtain leniency including potentially around one third off your fine, but, having made the admission, you will now be potentially on the hook for the corporate manslaughter charge.
"Companies can now be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter so the charge can be brought even if no individual responsibility can be proved.
"Before, a lack of a clear management structure with defined responsibility could even have acted in the company's favour. All that is needed now is to show that an organisation's gross negligence has resulted in death. Management failure which led to this negligence is a concept which is likely to be interpreted widely by the courts.
"Companies which have inadequate systems will be in the firing line, with those with an absence of risk management systems or compliance facing a particularly high risk of prosecution."
Ms Jamdar is urging businesses to respond quickly. "Directors should ensure that health and safety has a high profile at board level," she said.