For many years, lawyers have relied upon the fact that an employer has breached its obligations under regulations made under the Health & Safety at Work Act to establish liability for an injury to an employee during the course of his employment. This is set to change.
Changes to the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, which came into effect on 1st October 2013, now provide that a breach of the duties imposed by the regulations no longer results in civil liability except in certain circumstances.
This does not mean that the Health & Safety Regulations are irrelevant to the issues of liability for injuries caused to employees. A Claimant can still rely upon the regulations as an example of the standard which would be expected of a reasonable employer. It can be alleged that failing to comply with the regulations amounts to negligence and could still result in an employer being liable if that negligence caused the injury concerned.
The effect of the change is that it may make it a little harder for lawyers to prove claims on behalf of injured workers as a mere breach of the Health & Safety Regulations does not automatically give rise to liability. Claimants and Defendants will need to look more closely at the extent of the breach of the regulations and whether or not that breach is evidence of negligence on the part of the employer.
The changes only affect accidents which occurred after 1st October 2013. Liability will still follow for breaches of the regulations which caused accidents before 1st October 2013.