Legal Responsibilities

If your injury was sustained through no fault of your own then it may be that the party responsible has not kept to their legal obligations with regard to either employee or public safety.

The legal position that applies to your individual accident claim may depend primarily on where it took place.

Most slip trip and falls take place in the workplace.

In the UK, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) together with local authorities is responsible for enforcing The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (sometimes known as HSW or HASAW) along with other related safety legislation sometimes known as Statutory Instruments (SI’s) which generally relate to specific safety areas requiring additional relevant guidance – such as asbestos and radioactive material safety.

The legislation is designed to provide a health and safety framework for employers to allow a consistent, responsible and enforceable approach to the safety of both employees and visitors alike. While every individual scenario cannot be legislated for, it provides a wide-ranging list of employer responsibilities and contravention of these leading to an accident will generally leave an employer liable, not only for injury compensation but also potentially to investigation and prosecution by the HSE and the Local Authority.

In so far as the Act relates to slips, trips and falls and their prevention, the Act states the following:

It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

Without prejudice to the generality of an employer’s duty under the preceding subsection, the matters to which that duty extends include in particular:

(a)the provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health;

(b)arrangements for ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances;

(c)the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees;

(d)so far as is reasonably practicable as regards any place of work under the employer’s control, the maintenance of it in a condition that is safe and without risks to health and the provision and maintenance of means of access to and egress from it that are safe and without such risks;

(e)the provision and maintenance of a working environment for his employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.

Additionally the following excerpt also governs third-party contractors:

(1)It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.

(2)It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.

(3)In such cases as may be prescribed, it shall be the duty of every employer and every self-employed person, in the prescribed circumstances and in the prescribed manner, to give to persons (not being his employees) who may be affected by the way in which he conducts his undertaking the prescribed information about such aspects of the way in which he conducts his undertaking as might affect their health or safety.

The upshot of this is that employers and others have a responsibility to maintain a safe workplace. This may include, but not be limited to, the following relevant actions:

Ensuring that walkways, entrances and exits are kept clear of obstructions and hazards.

Ensuring that personal protective equipment (PPE) such as high-visibility clothing, masks, protective footwear are used wherever necessary to mitigate any risks.

Ensuring that access equipment such as kick-stools, access platforms and ladders are fit for purpose, meet the correct British Standards and are suitable for both you and the task that is being undertaken. You should also be adequately trained to use such items and many employers will undertake this as part of your induction into the company. Where this is not done you should not be expected to use such equipment until correctly trained. The Work at Height Regulations are an example of an SI that would apply to this scenario in addition to HSW.

Ensuring that stairs and steps are adequately maintained and are safe and suitable.

Ensuring that spills, defective flooring and obstructions are dealt with as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Ensuring that people are aware of any additional hazards such as those that are caused temporarily by workmen carrying out repairs etc in your workplace.

It is also worth noting that every individual in the workplace has a responsibility to each other and you have a duty of care to your fellow employees and anyone else who may be on the premises.

If you see something that looks like it may pose a risk or be an accident waiting to happen then you should report it or deal with it appropriately rather than waiting for someone else to do it as this may result in someone becoming injured as a result of your negligence or inaction. If you see something that may become a safety issue, let your employer know and make it their responsibility to deal with it appropriately if you are unable to resolve it safely and easily yourself.

Common sense also applies here – for example employees should not consume alcohol during or prior to business hours as this can be a factor in many accidents, also suitable clothing and footwear should be worn for the role that you are undertaking even if not specifically supplied by your employer.

Employers must also have ‘Public Liability Insurance’ for the workplace to ensure that they are insured against injuries on the business premises.

Where accidents take place in public places, such as on badly maintained or defective pavements then it is the responsibility of the Local Authority. They have a duty to ensure than any reported faults are rectified promptly and if they fail to do so within 48 hours of notification then they are often deemed not to have done so.