U.K. Review: Workers Injured Through no Fault of the Employer Should be Prohibited from Suing their Employer

In March 2011, the U.K. government retained Professor Ragnar E. Löfstedt of Kings College London to conduct a review of its health and safety laws. 

Professor Löfstedt conducted a detailed six month review and presented his recommendations to the U.K. Parliament in early November 2011.

Although his research concluded that there was no need to radically alter the U.K.’s current health and safety legislation, Professor Löfstedt did discover that the rising number of civil suits by employees with respect to health and safety issues was of significant concern to employers.  This was especially true with respect to cases involving strict liability offences – i.e. cases where employees were being awarded compensation even though the employer had done everything that was “reasonably practicable” and foreseeable in order to prevent the injury or accident.  As Professor Löfstedt stated in his report, “…awarding compensation on the basis of a technical breach where there is no opportunity for the [employer] to be aware of the danger, and no actions could have been taken to prevent the accident, clearly has the potential to stop employers taking a common sense approach to health and safety.” 

As a result of this finding, Professor Löfstedt recommended that a review be conducted of all strict liability provisions in the U.K.’s health and safety laws and that the provisions be modified either by adding a “reasonably practicable” defence for employers, or by removing the possibility of  civil liability attaching to the provisions.

Although due to provincial workers’ compensation legislation, most Canadian workers are prohibited from suing their employers for losses suffered due to workplace injuries, one wonders whether this review is recognition that in some countries, workplace safety laws have sometimes been applied in ways that are unfair to employers, imposing liability where the employer could not have done anything different.

 For further information, see Professor Löfstedt’s report: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/lofstedt-report.pdf

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