Health and Safety Obligations

29 April 2015

Polyflor Ltd v Health and Safety Executive

The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974 obligates employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees in the workplace, ‘as far as is reasonably practicable’.

An employee of 20 years experience was asked to repair a conveyer belt system; a job he had been trained to undertake and was aware of how to do safely. During the repair, he pushed a spanner into the mechanism – something he later admitted was ‘unwise’. His action led to a broken arm and seven weeks off work.

Despite his obvious culpability, Polyflor were convicted of offences and fined £7,500 in addition to £34,000 in costs. They appealed the decision but the Court of Appeal refused to overturn the ruling. Despite the actions of the employee being the cause of the injury, the fact that the company had failed to ensure the equipment was turned off during the repair, and that the guards were removed during this time, meant that the company had failed to meet it’s obligations and were therefore liable.

This case highlights the importance of employers fulfilling their duties under the HSWA. Employers should carry out all reasonable practicable steps to avoid an accident in order to ensure that they satisfy their obligations. If you have any queries about how you could enhance your policies and practices in this respect, please feel free to contact us.


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