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Strict liability in workplace claims - the end of the line?

The Government announced today that it will be introducing legislation before Parliament as early as next month amending the Health and Safety at Work Act to abolish strict liability for breaches of Health and Safety regulations. If the legislation is passed, employers will only be liable where fault is proved.

By way of example, this would mean that in future there may be no strict liability for defective work equipment under Regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998; or for exposure to dangerous substances under Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

This stems from recommendations to abolish strict liability in last year’s Löfstedt review of Health and Safety legislation. This specifically criticised the result in Stark v Post Office [2000] ICR 1013, as well as Allison v London Underground [2008] EWCA Civ 71 and Dugmore v Swansea NHS Trust [2002] EWCAA Civl 1689.

Strict liability has been part of the employers’ liability landscape since the Factories Acts – see for example Galashiels Gas Co Ltd v Millar [1949] AC 275 HL (cited in Stark v Post Office).

If passed, this will really be a sea-change in employer’s liability law, so keep watching this space for further updates…


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