What are the employer's basic duties?


1.         The provision of competent co-workers.  

For an employer to be liable under the competent co-workers heading, it must be shown that he had reason to be aware that the co-worker was incompetent after he had hired him but that he still continued to employ him.


For example:  

  • Employee not instructed in the safe operation of a consaw leading to injury.
  • Poor training or instruction leading to one employee injuring another.                              

2.         The provision of a safe place of work.

An employer owes a duty to ensure a reasonably safe place of work and to maintain the premises in such a condition that it will not endanger the health or wellbeing of the employee.  It is not sufficient for the employer to show that the employee was aware of the danger on the premises. In addition, employees who work ‘off site’ may be faced with unsafe conditions for example, on the premises of a client / customer. The employer cannot be familiar with all the circumstances in this instance and therefore cannot be held responsible, however, in the event of injury, the worker would be in a position to sue the owner of that premises and may well have a case against his or her employer.

For example:  

  • Poorly erected scaffolding leading to collapse or fall.
  • Poorly ventilated workplace leading to respiratory injury.
  • Wire trailing across a floor leading to trip.
  • Fall on a defective stairs in the workplace.

3.         The provision of proper equipment.

The duty to provide proper equipment and appliances extends to maintaining them in a proper condition so as not to subject employees to unnecessary risks. The duty under this heading covers two separate points:

  1. Equipment supplied must be safe.
  2. Equipment essential to the safety of the employee must be provided.

 For example:  

  • All necessary safety equipment must be provided.
  • Employees working in noisy areas must be provided with ear defenders.
  • Those ear defenders must be adequate for the noise level in the workplace.

4.         The provision of a safe system of work.

The provision of a safe system of work is a very wide topic and a suitably all embracing one under which many claims are brought. The degree of safety would depend on the particular job and would vary between wide limits. It is not sufficient for the worker to establish that the employer was negligent, he must also show what actually caused the injury.

For example:  

  • A factory worker is obliged to perform a repetitive task on a production line without adequate rest or rotation leading to repetitive strain injury in her shoulder.


Most accidents at work involve a combination of these 4 “faults”. 


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