Unsafe Place of Work?

by Julian White

When considering the merits of any claim for compensation arising from an accident in the work place it is important to consider the Employer’s liability at common law.

There are three elements that make up the employer’s common law duty. These are:

  1. To provide reasonably competent supervisors and employees
  2. To provide proper premises, plant and materials
  3. To provide a safe system of work.

It shall be considered here what makes a safe place of work.

An employer has a duty to provide appropriate equipment, including safety devices and protective clothing in addition to the maintenance of existing equipment. If the claimant can show that the employer has fallen below this duty then compensation may be awarded.

In the case of Toronto Power Co. v Paskwan [1915] AC 734 it was decided that if the employer, on reasonable inspection of work equipment would not have discovered the defect then the employer would not be liable. In addition they are not bound at once to adopt all the latest improvements and appliances.

This however does not mean that the employer has an excuse not to routinely inspect the equipment, especially in the case of dangerous machinery.

In addition the courts have found that the law does not demand the impossible from an employer. In the case of Latimer v AEC [1953] AC 643 it was argued that if the risk of injury was slight, and the cost for the employers in terms of cost and inconvenience would have been substantial, for example closing a factory. Then a breach of duty may be difficult to prove. It appears that the courts consider what is reasonable in the circumstances.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 act covers a wide range of health and safety issues. These do not just apply to factories, but also schools, hospitals and hotels etc. There are many regulations which govern how an employer should conduct their business and it is clear for any accident claim each regulation should be explored fully.

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