All employers owe their workers a duty of care and their top priority above all else should be providing a safe workplace for all their employees.
It is the responsibility of an employer to ensure that all employees are kept safe at work. This 'duty of care' relates to how the work is planned and carried out, how the workplace is organised, that all equipment is suitable for the job in hand and that all staff receive appropriate training including regular refresher training. Any failings in these regards are taking seriously by the courts and will lead to successful claims being made.
Our specialist employer’s liability solicitors have settled many work accident claims on behalf of people who have sustained an injury or have become ill during the course of their employment. Here are just five examples of an employer’s duty of care to their workers:
1. Providing safe equipment or machinery – employers must make sure that any equipment or machinery provided is suitable for the job.
They must also make regular inspections to check equipment and machinery is in good working order and only used by competent, trained personnel. We recently settled a claim for a cleaning supervisor injured at work when his arm was caught in a machine.
2. Safe manual handling procedures – your employer shouldn’t ask you to lift, lower, carry, push or pull any item that is likely to cause you injury.
Under the 1992 Manual Handling Operations Regulations, employers should – as is reasonably practicable – avoid hazardous manual handling operations by automating the work process, or do what they can to avoid injury to workers where such manual handling operations can’t be avoided.
It’s easy to sustain an injury if you have to lift or move heavy objects at work, like the factory worker who suffered acute back pain after regularly lifting heavy trays of meat above shoulder height.
3. Good lighting – as part of their duty to provide a safe working environment, your employer should ensure that the area where you work is adequately lit.
Different areas of the workplace call for different levels of lighting, for example a process control room or a factory floor will be lit at a higher luminance than a corridor connecting such areas.
Employers should regularly check the lighting on their premises as failure to do so can easily lead to a worker becoming injured. This is what happened to an installation fitter who sustained a broken wrist after slipping in a dark work yard where a sensor light failed to switch on as it should.
4. Vicarious liability – your employer could provide a safe working environment and adhere to all health and safety laws, but what if you were injured by the actions of a colleague?
All employers are required to have employer’s liability insurance, indeed they can be fined if they do not have it. Claims are made against this insurance to compensate injured workers, including those who have been injured by the negligent act of a colleague. This is because the law holds the employer to be ‘vicariously liable’ – i.e. liable for the actions of all employees (or those with who they have a relationship ‘akin to employment’) carried out during the course of their job.
We recently represented a supermarket distribution worker who was injured by falling objects, caused by a colleague driving a cherry picker.
5. Avoiding ‘one off’ requests – it’s important for employers to follow health and safety regulations at all times, and not ask workers to flout them for a one-off job. This is exactly how an IT technician was injured after he fell down a staircase at work after being asked to carry a heavy server between floors.
For more information about employer’s liability and accidents at work, see our earlier blog: Five Essential Facts About Accidents at Work
Matthew Tomlinson is a senior personal injury solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Sheffield.
The expert work accident solicitors at Slater and Gordon offer a free consultation for anyone injured or taken ill because of the work they do. Most cases are handled on a No Win, No Fee basis, meaning there is no financial risk to you.
Call us anytime 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.