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Work related accident claims - overviewThe employer's duties to the employee
An employer has both a common law and statutory duty to ensure the safety of their employees. The duty is to take reasonable care and this standard requires the employer to assess the potential risk of injury as against the harm the injury would cause the employee and the cost of putting safety precautions in place.
To satisfy the common law duty an employer must provide:
safe premises and a safe place to work
safe plant, materials and equipment
a safe system of work and safe working practices, and
competent staff as colleagues
The common law duty is a personable non-delegable duty and cannot be discharged by entrusting the safety of an employee to another employee or an independent contractor.
The common law duty is supplemented by statutory protection, in particular the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the regulations passed under it.
There are a number of common law and statutory provisions which impose a strict liability on employers. When this duty applies the claimant will succeed irrespective of whether there was any fault on the part of the defendant.
Accidents caused by a failure to properly manage the workplace
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, SI 1999/3242 lay down a framework of obligations on employers to prevent or minimise the risk of an accident in the workplace. Under the regulations an employer must:
make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment
implement and regularly review a health and safety policy
set in place regular risk surveillance
appoint competent health and safety personnel, and
provide health and safety information and training to employees
Accidents caused by work equipment
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, SI 1998/2306 set out employers duties with respect to all types of machine, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work. Under the regulations an employer must:
provide work equipment which is suitable for the purpose provided
maintain the work equipment in an efficient state
inspect work equipment after installation or assembly
provide suitable information and training in the use of the work equipment
A finding of strict liability will apply in cases where work equipment is found to be defective irrespective of whether that defect would have been discovered on examination.
Accidents caused by a lack of/provision of defective personal protective equipment
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, SI 1992/2966 set out employer's duties relating to the provision of personal protective safety equipment. Under the regulations an employer must:
provide staff with suitable personal protective equipment which is appropriate to the risk involved, the conditions in which the employee will be working, the ergonomic environment the employee is working in and the individual employee
undertake a risk assessment on the suitability of the personal protective equipment
suitably maintain the personal protective equipment in efficient working order and good repair, and
provide appropriate information and training on the use of the personal protective equipment
Accidents caused by the workplace environment
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations, SI 1992/3004 set out employer's duties relating to the buildings and the facilities which the employee works in. Under the regulations an employer must:
maintain all equipment, systems and devices in efficient working order and good repair
provide adequate ventilation, temperature and lighting
ensure that all furniture, fittings, floors, walls and ceilings are kept clean
ensure that all work stations are suitably arranged
ensure that all floor and traffic routes are suitable for the purpose used, and
ensure that measures are put in place to avoid injury to employees from falling objects
Accidents involving lifting
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, SI 1992/2793 set out employers duties relating to manual handling operations. These are defined as the transporting of a load by hand or bodily force. Under the regulations an employer must:
so far as reasonably practicable avoid the need for employees to undertake any manual handling involving lifting
undertake a risk assessment of the manual handling risk
reduce manual handling tasks to the lowest level reasonably practicable if they cannot be avoided
provide employees with information as to the weight of each load
assess each employee on an individual basis as to their suitability to undertake a manual handling task
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, SI 2007/320 set out the legal duties for employers involved in construction work. The regulations came into force on 6 April 2007 and reference should be made to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 and the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 for accidents occurring prior to this date.
The regulations make explicit the duties owed under other health and safety regulations and create additional duties. The regulations apply to all parties undertaking construction works, save for domestic individuals who are not undertaking construction works as part of their business. In particular the regulations apply to CDM coordinators, principal contractors, designers, contractors and workers.
Under the regulations persons involved in construction work must ensure that:
the construction site is a safe place of work
there is good order and site security
there is stability of structures
any demolition or dismantling work is properly planned and carried out in a safe manner
any excavation work is carried out safely
a proper system of inspections and reporting is implemented
traffic and vehicle routes are organised
suitable provisions are put in place to reduce the risk of drowning and fire
suitable provisions are put in place to ensure that there is sufficient fresh air and lighting, and
suitable provisions are put in place to ensure that parties working on the construction do so in a reasonable temperature and that there is weather protection
Accidents involving working at height
Under the Work at Height Regulations 2005, SI 2005/735, all employers are under a duty to:
ensure that all work undertaken at height is properly planned, supervised and carried out in a safe manner
carry out a suitable risk assessment of all work carried out at height
provide employees working at height with suitable protective personal equipment
consider all aspects of the task in hand when selecting the work equipment to undertake the job at height
properly inspect and maintain any equipment used for working at height
These regulations apply to all tasks where a person could fall a distance liable to cause a personal injury and to all employers, the self-employed and to any person under an employers control.
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