Why spending on Health on Safety can save you money

Many employers believe that if an accident happens to an employee in the workplace the employer will inevitably be found liable and have to pay compensation.

Recent cases in the Court of appeal gives some comfort to employers when it comes to employer’s liability and health and safety obligations in the workplace. It further illustrates that by investing in health and safety training and being able to provide evidence of this, the employer is in a better position to defend claims in the workplace.

Court of Appeal Decisions

Case 1

An employee in a Store slipped on a wrapper and injured her arm, shoulder and elbow. The Store defended the claim which ended up in the Court of Appeal and the store gave evidence of a security operative walking through the area 5 minutes before the accident and he had not seen any wrapper on the floor.

The Store gave evidence that this security person regularly walked through the area and checked the area from the perspective of security and hygiene. The Court of Appeal held that this was a reasonable approach by the employer and a key defence for an employer is ‘did he act as a reasonable employer?’

The Court of Appeal also noted that the employee had received training and allowed the employer’s appeal from the High Court decision.

Case 2

A Plaintiff suffered an injury when he stepped off a pallet and became entangled in shrink wrapping. It was accepted that the plaintiff had received training for health and safety in the workplace and had even received refresher training after his original training.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the legal obligation on the employer to provide a safe place and system of work as far as is practicable but also recognised that the employee also has an obligation in respect of his own safety.

The Court of Appeal held ‘the proximate cause of the accident was the failure of the respondent to keep a proper look out and adhere to the instructions he had received in training’ and allowed the Stores appeal finding that the employee was responsible for the accident and his injury as the shrink wrap would have been obvious to him if he had looked.

Conclusion- it’s not a strict liability for employers

No matter how much the employer feels the deck is stacked against him in these types of cases it is clear that the Courts will still require the plaintiff to prove the defendant was negligent and it is not a case of strict liability for the employer.

The two cases show the importance of providing health and safety training for employees as it was a big factor in avoiding liability in both cases.