Do workplace owners have a duty to employees of contractors on their premises?
A recent Court of Appeal decision tackled the question of whether a duty was owed by a building owner to employees of contractors working on the businesses’ premises.
The new ruling has clarified the duties owed by owners and occupiers of premises to contractors’ employees, and is set to be welcomed by employers' liability insurers.
In the case of Ceva Logistics Ltd v (1) Mark Anthony Lynch (2) Steve W Lynch T/A Lynch Electrical Contractors , the claimant was an electrician employed by Steve Lynch to carry out works for the owner of the warehouse, Mark Anthony Lynch.
The claimant was working in a narrow aisle of the warehouse when he was hit by a truck moving down the aisle.
The claimant alleged breach of regulation 4(2) and regulation 17 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
• Regulation 17 stipulates that traffic routes should be organised in such a manner as to allow safe and suitable access for all pedestrians.
• Regulation 4(2) imposes the duties on anyone who has control over the workplace, to the extent to which matters are within their control.
The warehouse owner Mark Anthony Lynch argued that the regulations did not apply to the owner. He argued that the claimant was employed as an electrician by Steve Lynch and the claimant was carrying out electrical work and was injured during the course of his employment.
The judge was unconvinced by this argument and apportioned 60% liability to the warehouse owner for breaching the statutory duty in respect of safe traffic routes and 40% to the claimant’s employer for failing to ensure a safe system of work was in place.
It was held that the warehouse owner had breached statutory duty by allowing the claimant to enter a narrow aisle where there could be traffic. The claimant should have been told by the warehouse owner to block vehicle’s access to the aisle while he worked.
The warehouse owner was entitled to assume that the claimant’s employer instructed the claimant on how to carry out his work safely but this assumption was not enough to take away the duty owed by the warehouse owner to the claimant.
The warehouse owner’s appeal was dismissed and liability remained.
Why is this case important?
• The Court of Appeal found that the warehouse owner had the ability to control the manner in which vehicles and people moved around the warehouse.
• It held that rules were necessary to keep pedestrians safe and only the warehouse owner could impose and enforce the rules of conduct for the variety of contractors working within and visiting the warehouse.
• The regulations did apply to the warehouse owner as the party with control over traffic within the warehouse. The warehouse owed a statutory duty of care to ensure pedestrians and vehicle routes were marked and separated.
• This decision seeks to clarify what is meant by ‘control’ and is likely to assist insurers when considering the duties owed to employees entering premises for the purpose of their work.
• A statutory duty is likely to be imposed on matters that fall within the control of the owner of the premises, even where there is an employer who also owes a statutory duty to the employee.
Source: Langley’s Claims Casebook – February 2011