Every employer owes his employees a duty of care to take all reasonable steps to protect their health and safety while at their workplace and doing the job they get paid to do. In practice, this translates to a requirement to provide employees with:
- A safe system of work,
- Safe premises that are maintained to a reasonable standard
- Suitable machinery, tools, plant and equipment.
You could also add that it is a requirement for the employer to ensure that you and the people you work with are sufficiently competent to do the jobs they are employed to do. (More on this shortly).
Note that the employer must take reasonable care of his employees. His conduct should be that of a reasonable and prudent employer. In other words, he needs to ask himself:
‘What would other reasonable and prudent employers do in a similar situation?’
Suppose your employer’s conduct falls short of what would be expected of a reasonable and prudent employer in the same circumstances, and you get injured in an accident because of his negligence. In that case, the employer will breach the duty of care he owes to you.
The standard that the employer needs to conform to is a high one.
You would have the right to hold your employer to account by bringing an accident at work injury compensation claim against him if he is in breach of his duty of care to you, i.e., he is negligent.
Accidents at work that happened before 1 October 2013
Before 1 October 2013, it was possible to bring a civil claim against an employer for personal injury arising from a workplace accident for breach of statutory duty (i.e., an obligation imposed on an employer by a written law).
The central Act of Parliament used by accident at work claimants solicitors to pursue their clients’ claims was the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAW 1974). However, there are also many other work-related acts of parliament.
Relying on statutory liability was another way an injured worker could make a workplace accident claim. Relying on a breach of statutory duty meant that you didn’t have to prove the employer had also been negligent.
The Enterprise Act
In 2013, the government introduced the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (E&RRA 2013). This amended HASAW 1974 so that after 1 October 2013, it was no longer possible to claim that if an employer had breached the rules of an Act of Parliament, he was automatically at fault for a work-related claim. From 1 October onwards, the claimant also had to prove a breach of duty/negligence on the employer’s part.
Using health and safety legislation breaches as evidence to support a negligence claim is still possible. It’s just that breach of a statutory duty alone is no longer enough to succeed in an accident at work claim.