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Employer's Liability Notes

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A more recent version of these Employer's Liability notes – written by Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students – is available here.

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Employer's Liability _______________________________________________________

Two types of employer's liability:
? Vicarious liability: liability for an employee committed against a fellow worker / member of the public
? Primary liability: liability of the employer for a non-delegable personal duty Employer's liability is a big area of tort law because employers are insured, and potentially because there are a lot of accidents in the work placeStatutory breach: there is no civil remedy available for breach of a statutory duty unless the statute can be interpreted as providing one expressly - thus the employer's duty of care exists separately from their statutory duty

Primary Liability A non-delegable duty = a common law duty to employees to see that reasonable care is taken with them. If it is delegated this will not negative primary liability Wilsons and Clyde Coal Injury sustained in a mine & claim in negligence against employer. Employer argued that the person in charge was negligent, but they had taken reasonable care in employing the correct person Held: this was a personal duty and couldn't be delegated to avoid liability, even if the delegated person is appointed with due care and skill Established threefold duty:

1. To provide competent staf

2. To provide workers with adequate materials/tools

3. To provide a proper system of work and efective supervision This revolves around the central premise to take reasonable care of the worker. This duty is owed to individual employees: This means that the duty will be to difering standards dependent on the employee's particular vulnerabilities (see Paris v Stepney Borough Council (above) where it was held that the employee should have been provided with safety goggles because of his partial blindness) Employer's knowledge of risks: Stokes v Guest Keen - physical harm Mineral oil which eventually caused him to develop cancer. Employer knew of risk & failed to mitigate it

Held: the test is of the reasonable employer taking positive thought for the safety of his workers in light of what he knows or ought to know. Common practice will usually suffice, unless it is obviously bad according to common sense. Greater knowledge of the risks means he but go above the standard precautions. Baker Refractories (below) - psychiatric harm Competent Staf Employer has a duty to employ reasonably competent staf Scenarios amounting to breach:Hiring employees incapable of performing their job Butler v Fife Coal Mine injury caused by inexperienced worker appointed to dangerous activities Held: alongside the statutory duty exists the common law duty to take reasonable care of workers, here breached by employing the incompetent staf memberHiring employees who they know or ought to know are practical jokers Hudson v Ridge Manufacturing Practical joker employee, whom the employer knew of, threw the claimant onto the floor Held: the employers were negligent by failing to stop this staf member - so the breach of duty here was both hiring the practical joker, and "failing to remove the source of danger" once appointedHiring employees who bully or sexually harass staf Harrison v Lawrence Murphy Sexual harassment & bullying Held: this was a failure to provide competent staf

Adequate Materials & Equipment The duty to provide a safe place of work includes a duty to take reasonable care to provide "proper appliances and to maintain them in proper condition" (Smith v Baker per Lord Herschell) Davie v New Merton Board Mills C using a faulty tool which had been negligently manufactured, however the employer had bought it from a reputable manufacturer & maintained it Held: the employer could not reasonably be held liable here; liability lay with the manufacturer of defective goods

Employers Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1969 (after Davie):
? A defective piece of equipment due to fault of manufacturer will now be attributable to the employer
? This has been interpreted as a breed of vicarious liability, not a breach of the primary duty to take reasonable care Definition of equipment: Coltman v Bibby Ship went down C onboard Held: the ship was interpreted as a piece of equipment by the courts & the employer was held liable, applying the statute, despite the fact the ship was built negligently Safe System of Work
? "the physical layout of the job, the sequence in which work is to be carried out, the provision of warnings and notices and the issue of special instructions" Speed v Thomas Swift per Lore Greene Safety procedures: McDermid v Nash: an employer's duty is not just to provide a safe system of work but must also make sure that it is used Qualcast v Haynes Experienced moulder dropped molten metal on foot whilst wearing protective footwear Held: (HL) failure to ensure wearing of safety equipment is not a presumption of negligence, however, this is a factual analysis. Here the experience of the employee & obviousness of risk meant it was not unreasonable Yorkshire Traction v Walker Searby Bus driver assaulted by passenger arguing that there should have been a screen partition Held: whilst common practice is not determinative, and workers' own ideas about safe systems also so, here the Union's opinion that screens were unnecessary would have influenced a reasonable employer. The magnitude of the risk was also small. Coxall v Goodyear Great Britain C had asthma working for goodyear and continued working despite doctor's warnings as he loved his job. Evidence that he wouldn't have moved even if goodyear had offered him another role Held: the production line itself was safe, but the employer should have been alerted by the doctor's warnings to his health. One judge argued that they should have sacked him for his own good. Other reasoning centred around the fact they should've discussed other options with him once they were aware of the risk NB: this seems to place a very heavy burden on employers; the claimant wouldn't have moved even if they had discussed other options

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