Company heads are threatening to find a fall guy to take the blame if the government introduces a new offence of corporate killing, according to a British Safety Council (BSC) survey.

Instead of risking a hefty fine or prison sentence themselves, some said they would place responsibility for safety to someone who was easily replaceable.

One boss was reported as saying: “If you tell me there has to be someone on the board who is ultimately responsible as a fall guy, we can put someone in place who can be easily fired and replaced.”

Most of those surveyed were opposed to changing the existing corporate manslaughter laws. They thought the proposed heavier fines and long prison sentences were politically motivated after disasters such as the Paddington rail crash.

The proposed legislation, part of the government's commitment to improving health and safety at work, will make directors personally liable for causing injuries and deaths through gross breaches of health and safety law.

The director general of the BSC, Sir Neville Purvis said the council suppported change.