Employers Liability

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Employers Liability and breach of statutory duty

Employers liability have both a common law and statutory aspect.

Common law = found in tort of negligence.

Duties are only owed to employees. Not owed to IC and visitor’s (Occupiers liability)

Common Law

Basic duty owed at common law by an employer to an employee is founded on the tort of negligence.

Authority derives from:
Wilsons and Clyde Coal v English [1938] AC 57
Employers have the duty at common law to take reasonable care for its employers safety while at work. Obligations provide: • Safe premises and a safe place to work.
• Adequate safe plant, materials and equipment
• A competent staff as colleagues
• An effective system of work and safe working practices

The standard of reasonable care
At what standard will an employer’s behaviour be judged?
They will be judge at the standard of the reasonable employer. What will be judged: • Employers level of experience - An employee with little or no exp will require a higher degree of care. • The nature of work – a greater degree of care will be expected to ensure the safety of an employee working on dangerous machines, then is required of admin working in factory • Any special characteristics that the employee may have and the employer knows about that is likely to increase risk of injury.

Safe premises
Concerned with building itself and structure (Latimer v AEC) and windows (General Cleaning Contractors v Christmas [1953] AC 180. Distinguished from plant machinery.

Employer must take reasonable steps to ensure other peoples workplaces are safe too.

Cook v Square D Ltd [1992] ICR 262
Factors employer must consider when determining whether a workplace is safe for an employee: • Location where work is to be done
• Nature of the building
• Nature of work required from employee
• Employee’s expertise and exp
• Degree of control that is reasonable to expect employer to exercise • Whether the employer is aware that the premises are dangerous.

Safe equipment
Employer must provide safe equipment and ensure its properly maintained. This duty is supplemented by the Employers’ Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1969 which defines “equipment” as “any plant and machinery, vehicle, aircraft and clothing’ and expands the duty upon the employer to include liability for equipment that is defective due to the negligence of TP i.e manufacturer. Knowles v Liverpool CC [1993] 1WLR 1428

Claimants figure was injured due to a defective flagstone. Employer argued how could he have known about defect and not be liable and that a flagstone was not equipment. HELD: S1(1)(b) ELDEA 1969 made it clear that the employer would be liable for defects that were not obvious or visable even when caused by manufacturer. The braod definition of “equipment” would encompass “any article of whatever kind furnished by the employer for purposes of his business”.

EXCEPTION
Liability may be avoided if the employer can establish that the defective equipment did not cause the employee’s injury. McWilliams v Sir William Arrol & Co Ltd [1962] 1 WLR 295
If employer can establish that employee would not have used safety equipment even if it was provided.

Safe system of work
This is the area that gives rise to the greatest number of claims. This includes instructions from employer as well as training and warnings.

Speed v Thomas Swift & Co Ltd [1943] 1 KB 557
The court considered that the duty to provide a safe system of work included four features: 1. The physical layout of the job
2. The sequence by which the work is carried out
3. The provisions of warnings and notices and the issue of special instructions where necessary 4. The need to modify or improve the system to respond to particular circumstances

Following situations that are covered by the requirement to provide a safe system of work: • Failure to warn employees of the...
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