Case law: Employer liable for health and safety risks even though members of the public generally were also exposed to those risks
Employers cannot assume employees will take their own precautions against health and safety risks to which they are exposed during working hours, even if those risks are shared with members of the public generally and are not materially increased by the nature of their employment.
This update was published in Legal Alert - March 2016
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A home carer slipped on an icy path when visiting a client. She took legal action against her employer claiming breach of health and safety regulations, and breach of the rules requiring employers to provide employees with protective equipment in certain circumstances.
Health and safety regulations require employers to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessment. The protective equipment regulations require them to provide employees with protective equipment if they are exposed to risks to their health or safety while at work. The employee claimed that her employer should have issued her with attachments for her shoes (which had a flat sole), giving her extra grip.
The employer had carried out two risk assessments, including assessing the risk of home carers slipping on snow and ice in the course of their employment. However, it had taken no action despite knowing - because of previous incidents - that ice was a general issue for carers visiting clients, and despite the fact the icy spell at the time of the incident had already lasted several weeks.
These factors, coupled with the fact that the shoe attachments were both effective and affordable and could have prevented the incident, meant that the employer had breached the health and safety regulations.
- Employers should ensure they have carried out sufficient and suitable risk assessments, considered and provided clothing or equipment that may reduce any risks identified, and given employees appropriate training, even if the risks are shared by employees with members of the public generally, and are not materially increased by the nature of their employment.
Case ref: Kennedy v Cordia (Services) LLP  UKSC 6
Please note: An article published in the November 2014 edition of Legal Alert covered this case at an earlier stage in the legal process.
Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.
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