The most important provision, which will affect personal injury claims says that in damages claims the court must "take account" of whether the party sued took a generally responsible approach to safety, e.g. providing training or a carrying out risk assessments.
The Bill says:
"The court must have regard to whether the person, in carrying out the activity in the course of which the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred, demonstrated a generally responsible approach towards protecting the safety or other interests of others."
Similar sections apply to actions where someone was acting for the benefit of society, e.g. charitable works and acts of heroism in emergencies.
What does the Bill seek to achieve?
The Bill says the court should consider whether the wrongdoer took a generally responsible approach to safety in determining the matter but it is unclear whether this requires the court to mitigate fault or reduce damages in any award. In criminal prosecutions the guilty employer may advance an otherwise good safety record as part of a plea to reduce the penalty including any fine, but in a civil damages action carefully developed rules set out the basis for reducing fault - and the damages awarded - where a percentage reduction may be applied to take account of the claimant's own negligence.
Encouraging the "have a go hero" provision
The provision for the "have a go hero" who goes to someone's aid is interesting. The Court should bear in mind the context of such assistance if the hero is later accused of negligence.
This could apply to situations like the protracted proceedings a few years ago involving the 44 year-old Scots solicitor Alison Hume who, while crossing waste ground in Galston in 2008 on her way home from work fell through a ground vent into a 40ft derelict mineshaft. She lay trapped for six hours and later died in hospital after the interpretation of Fire Brigade health and safety rules stopped firefighters from deploying a rope and harness to rescue her. She was eventually lifted to the surface by Mountain Rescue volunteers but in her exhausted and hypothermic state suffered a fatal heart attack.
The new law may have some value for this relatively rare scenario, though some have suggested that a new Act of Parliament is an administratively unnecessary step, actually adding to the red tape of compliance legislation rather than reducing it.
The Bill will not apply in Scotland. We will have to wait and see whether or not the Scottish Government follow suit with similar legislation North of the Border.