New legislation removing the ‘strict liability’ provisions that make companies automatically liable for certain workplace injuries has been introduced by the House of Lords.
The change was implemented on 1 October 2013 and applies to injuries sustained after this date.
In his 2011 independent review of health and safety laws, Professor Ragnar Löfsted of King’s College London called for the removal of strict liability for civil damages under some existing health and safety regulations – and now this call for action has been fulfilled.
What does this mean for employees?
Under the old legislation, the view that employees injured at work should be compensated by their employers regardless of fault took precedence. This meant that even if an employer had done nothing wrong, they would be liable – for example if work equipment failed and caused injury despite good maintenance and unforeseeable failure, the company would have to take responsibility.
But all this is now a thing of the past as Section 47 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1984, by virtue of section 6 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, will remove the standard of strict liability from certain health and safety regulations.
According to rules enforced at the beginning of the month, individuals are now required to prove negligence before being able to pursue a claim.
This means that injured employees need to gather as much information at the time, such as details of apparatus and machinery, photographs and documentary evidence and contact details of potential witnesses.
The controversial new laws will effectively make it harder to claim compensation, making good expert advice indispensable.
No win no fee solicitors will pursue a workplace accident claim on your behalf provided negligence or blame can be proved to lie elsewhere.
What does this mean for employers?
The change in legislation is good news for employers as it impedes the punishment of companies for injuries they took all reasonable steps to prevent. It also helps to combat the perceived ‘compensation culture’ and protect them from this.
But is the compensation culture real or just a myth? Check out our blog post on the subject for both sides of the story.
There are also concerns that the new laws may be seen by employers as a chance to make savings by lowering health and safety standards – but with the HSE always on the lookout for companies that do not fulfil their legal obligations in this area, employees can rest assured that firms will continue to make health and safety a top priority.