Manager at fault
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires an employee:
"… to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work " (s.7(a));
An employee may commit an offence if he contravenes the duty. The employer may also be liable to prosecution as well as liable in damages if injury is caused by his employee's failure.
Excavator bucket - Work platform
Last month a site manager in Hertfordshire, Edwin Heaney was personally fined for safety failings after a worker was injured while working at height.
Mr Heaney used an excavator with soil bucket to raise a site worker to access work at height to cut a protruding piece of steel.
Mr Heaney left the operator’s cabin of the excavator, leaving the machine unattended whilst the worker continued to use a handheld grinder when the bucket suddenly jolted downwards throwing the worker off balance. He managed to throw the grinder clear and grabbed onto the adjacent wall to stop his fall. Another colleague then provided a ladder to allow him to get down safely. The employee could have been killed but managed to hold on to the wall to prevent a free fall, but suffered lesser injuries. In this scenario the employee would have the burden of proving his case on the basis of the company failing to take reasonable care, despite the manager being convicted of a statutory offence which imposes strict liability without proof of fault under the relevant regulations.
Misuse of machinery
While this may appear to be an example of a crass failure by the contractor, it is quite common for employees to be injured when equipment is inappropriately used to lift materials or people. In one of our cases, a building company foreman was presented with a forklift truck laden with 40 foot concrete reinforcing rods balanced on the forks. The rods weighed 2 tons and when the truck moved the load wobbled and promptly fell off causing severe crush injuries to our client.
Even experienced senior managers may at times try to cut corners with disastrous results. Employers and employees must consider and assess the possible risks before pushing ahead with a time saving and unorthodox method of doing a job.