Every employer owes his employees a duty of care to take all reasonable steps to protect their health and safety whilst they are 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 maintained to a reasonable standard
- Suitable machinery, tools, plant and equipment.
You could also add that it is a requirement on 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 as a result of his negligence. In that case, the employer will be in breach of 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 which happened before 1st October 2013
Before 1st October 2013, it was possible to bring a civil claim against an employer for personal injury arising out of 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 a vast number of other work-related acts of parliament.
Statutory liability was another avenue for an injured worker to use to make a workplace accident claim. Relying on a breach of statutory duty meant that you didn’t have to prove the employer had been negligent separately.
The Enterprise Act
Unfortunately for anyone who is now contemplating an accident at work claim, in 2013, the government brought in new legislation called the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (E&RRA2013). This amended HASAW 1974 to make it that after 1st October 2013, it would no longer be possible to claim that an employer had been in breach of an act of parliament and therefore was liable for a work-related claim. The claimant, from then on, also had to prove breach of duty/negligence on the part of the employer.
It is still possible to use health and safety legislation breaches as evidence to support a negligence claim. It’s just that breach of a statutory duty is no longer, of itself, enough to succeed in an accident at work claim.