Government proposals to reform the law on corporate manslaughter fall short of making owners, directors and senior personnel individually criminally liable for fatal accidents at work, according to trade unions and Thompsons Solicitors, the UK's leading personal injury law firm.

Company directors should also face disqualification from management for life, along with long prison sentences, according to train drivers' union ASLEF, the firefighters' union FBU and Thompsons in a joint submission to the government in response to the Home Office paper Reforming the law on involuntary manslaughter.

And health and safety legislation should specifically establish managing directors and CEOs as responsible for health and safety, in order to prevent "unscrupulous employers" avoiding responsibility by appointing junior staff to the role. The government's proposals, in their present form, risk allowing front-line employees to be scapegoated for the failings of company bosses to ensure lives are not threatened by working practices.

The joint submission also rejects the Home Office proposal to make existing health and safety authorities, along with the police and Crown Prosecution Service, responsible for prosecuting over workplace deaths.

Proposed legislation needs improvement

It calls for a specialist police and CPS unit to be set up, tasked solely with the investigation and prosecution of companies and their senior managers.

Trade unions will next week call for tougher action to make employers responsible for their actions where human lives are risked when they meet in Glasgow for the annual TUC conference.

A meeting being hosted by the Haldane Society of Lawyers, Aslef, the FBU and Thompsons Solicitors will set out proposals for that action.

Mick Rix, general secretary of Aslef, will say that "without improvements to the proposed legislation, working people and the public at large will not see any real impact".

"That will simply give the green light to the unscrupulous and irresponsible employer to carry on putting profit above safety. The price for faulty legislation today will be faulty safety standards tomorrow, and it will be paid in deaths and injuries."

Note to editors The consultation on the Home Office proposals ended on Friday 1 September.