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It has been announced that the Government plans to change the law on health and safety in the workplace.
The change proposed by the Government is to amend S.47 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This statutory provision imposes strict liability on employers where the health and safety of their employees is concerned. This will mean that employees will have to rely on the common law duty of negligence.
Under the present law all employers have a responsibility to protect their employees’ health, safety and welfare at work. This includes providing employees with adequate training for the job they are employed to do, including how to lift heavy objects correctly. In addition, employees must ensure that employees receive training in relation to health and safety in their workplace.
By law the employer has a duty to provide their employees with the necessary machinery and tools to carry out their jobs and they need to make sure the tools and machines are maintained so that they remain in a safe condition. The employer must ensure that the workplace is kept in a safe and tidy condition and floors and corridors should be clean and free from hazards.
Employers must also provide their employees with any protective equipment that may be required, such as goggles where there is risk of items getting into the eyes, hard hats where there is a risk of falling objects, ear defenders, dust masks, safety gloves, safety boots, etc.
The reasoning behind strict liability being imposed on employers when it comes to health and safety of their employees is to relieve the employee the burden of proving something that it in most cases it would not be in their power to prove.
There is the argument that in some cases this can lead to unfairness on the employers as in some cases a defect may only have been notable on close inspection. However, this is counterbalanced by the fact that successful cases will involve employees having being injured by faulty work equipment, unsafe working environments, lack of personal protective equipment etc. when simply doing the job they are told to do by their employer.
The removal of strict liability as proposed by the Government will create unpredictability in the law. Claimants will only be able to pursue their claim in negligence meaning that the burden of proof will shift to employees who will have to prove that the machine was faulty or that the work environment was hazardous, etc.
Health and safety is important and it seems unfortunate that this government wishes to encourage businesses to regard it as a negative thing that is more about red tape than about the prevention of unnecessary injuries.
At Ramsdens we can deal with all types of workplace injury claims ranging from soft tissue injuries to fractures, lacerations and even catastrophic injuries. Sometimes an accident can cause a person to suffer psychologically and this is something which would be included as part of the claim.
Employer’s liability is not limited to injuries that have occurred as a result of one specific incident. Employers can also be liable for illness suffered in the workplace such as deafness or asbestos related illness. This is known as “industrial disease” and the term relates to a condition that has developed after an exposure to unsafe working conditions.
Contact our specialist team for more information.