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Employers’ Liability

Employers’ Liability

What is it?
The duty you hold for an employee, while they are at work.  Although there is no specific statue law for employers’ libabilty and the majority comes from common law, The Employer’s Liability Act 1969 outline that business must have liability for personal injury and death to their employees.   This insurance makes it easier for a court to find an employer liable as they will not personally have to pay out huge amounts of compensation.

What is covered by employers’ liability was most recently discussed in [Harris v Brights Asphalt Contractors]The plaintiff fell through the roof of a building he was repairing and claimed damages from his employer for failing to provide a safe place to work..  It was said to ensure that broadly “any risk which an employer can reasonably foresee,” should be covered provided the costs of avoiding such risk does not outweigh the risk itself.  Before this [Wilsons & Clyde Coal Co Ltd. v English]The plaintiff was a miner who was crushed by a digger. He claimed damages from the mine owner, whom used as his defence that they were not responsible at the time of the accident because all responsibility had been delegated to be his agent. The House of Lords found that having an agent to look over employment does not discharge duty. outlined that an employer must provide a “competent staff of men, adequate material, and a proper system and effect supervision.”

Who is an employee?
An employee must be competent.

What risks should be avoided?
Competent workers.  Only an employee with sufficient experience or training in a particular area should be employed for the job.  If a fellow employee is injured as a result of employing an incompetent worker, then an employer is liable [Butler v Fife Coal]The courts decided that an employer held a responsibility whenan inexperienced person is employed to carry out highly dangerous activities.. Employers can also be liable for those that they know mess around, but fail to repremand [Hudson v Ridge Manufacturing]One of Ridge Manufacturing's employees thought it was a funny practical joke to trip people up. Ridge Manufacturing were aware of this and had tried to stop this, but had been unsuccesful. One day this employee tripped and seriously injured Mr. Hudson, whom sucessfully sued Ridge Manufacturing..
Safe place of work.  If an employee is working on an employer’s premises, the employer must ensure that they act in the same way as a reasonable prudent employer, and that reasonable steps are taken for the employee’s safety [Latimer v AEC]There was an oil spill in a factory and the owners put sawdust on the floors. One small part was left uncovered and an employee sliped. It was held that the factory had taken reasonable steps to take care of the emplotee's safety.
Safe system of working.  The employer must come up with a system of work that is suitable for the duty employees must perform – [General Cleaning Contractors v Christmas]Mr. Christmas cleaned windows for GCC. They taught him to hold on to the sill of the window while he cleaned. One day a window shut on his hand causing him to let go and injure himself. It was deicded that the system they had devised was unsafe because they did not teach him to check for loose sashes or provide additional equipment such as a wedge.
Adequate equipment.  Employers must provide employees with necessary equipment, and ensure reasonable steps are taken to maintain its condition.  [Yorkshire Traction v Walter Searby]A bus driver was attacked because there was no persplex glass protecting him. The Court of Appeal decided that reasonable steps had been taken to provide equipment of a reasonable height.
Working conditions that affect the mental health of employees.  [Corr v IBC Vehicles]A sheet of metal hit the plaintiff on the head and six years later he killed himself as a result of a depressive illness. Hig employers were held to be liable.

Stress at work
Employers can now be found liable for causing stress at work. [Hatton v Sutherland].

What defences are available?
Volenti and contributory negligence.  The defendant knew of the risks and consented to them.  [ICI v Shatwell]Shatwell was forbidden by his employees to carry out tests on explosives without taking shelter. He continully ignored this explicit warning and injured himself. The company was not held liable as the defendant knew of, and had consented to the risks involved.

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