MANAGERS & OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY
Occupational safety is primarily related to vicarious liability i.e. liability delegated to an employer as far as it concerns torts committed within the course of employment of his employees.
Nonetheless an employer, is rarely concerned with the provision of safety to his employees; This is a primary duty for managers.
Employers assign to their managers the duty to provide safety (in all aspects) to the employees: Managers are responsible for everything that occurs within their scope of supervision and usually jeopardize their jobs if anything goes wrong (manager acting carelessly or negligently - breach of implied term of care under the contract of employment - therefore dismissed).
It has to be mentioned though, that the employers' liability is non-delegable (i.e. non-transferable to the managers).
N.B.: Since all Acts, SIs and Regulations are referred to the employers' duties and liabilities, we will retain this form knowing that when it comes to the provision of safety, managers are responsible and managers apply the rules.
PLANT AND MACHINERY
It is the employer's duty to take reasonable care to provide, maintain and keep in good proper plant and machinery. A reasonable employer has to decide whether equipment is required and, if so, make a choice of type.
So, the original responsibility of the employer is to provide plant and set up a regular system of maintenance.
THE PROVISION OF PLANT
The provision of plant may be considered under three heads:
i) Total failure to provide necessary plant
ii) Failure to provide sufficient plant
iii) Providing defective or dangerous equipment
Many types of plant and machinery are dangerous in their ordinary working, and it is the duty of the employer to install any necessary safety device with the machine .
The fencing of machinery (as a precaution against accidents) is now governed by statute.
THE MAINTENANCE OF PLANT
It is the duty of the employer to take reasonable care to maintain his plant and machinery in proper condition. He is liable for the negligence of his servants and for the negligence of independent contractors to whom the maintenance of machinery is entrusted.
Careful maintenance may involve, any or all of the following measures:
1. regular inspection and testing,
2. calling for defect reports,
3. discarding worn-out equipment,
4. carrying out repairs and servicing without undue delay,
5. the cleaning of plant (remove oil, dust, etc.).
THE PLACE OF WORK
The employer is bound to use reasonable care to provide safe premises and appliances for his servants to work in and with, and to use reasonable care to keep them.
PREMISES AND PLANT OF A THIRD PARTY
The duty of an employer is to take reasonable care for the safety of his workmen throughout the course of their employment even when the workmen are sent to work at premises which do not belong to the employer.
It is the duty of the employer to provide competent staff and safe fellow employees (employee holding all necessary qualifications and acting with reasonable care may be deficient in experience to meet situations the employer ought to have foreseen).
A PROPER SYSTEM OR METHOD OF WORKING
A very important branch of the employer's duty is that he must take reasonable care to establish and enforce a proper system or method of work.
It is the duty of an employer to give such general safety instructions as a reasonably careful employer who has considered the problem presented by the work would give to his workmen.
MEANING OF SYSTEM OF WORK
The employer is responsible for the general organization of the factory, mine or other undertaking; in sort, he decides the broad scheme under which the premises, plant and men are put to work.
This organization or "system" includes such matters as:
1. co-ordination of different departments and activities,
2. the lay-out of plant and appliances for special tasks,
3. the method of using particular machines or carrying out particular processes,
4. the instruction of apprentices and inexperienced workers.
This kind is required both for providing safety and ensuring that work is carried on smoothly and competently.
The employer must take into account the fact that workmen become careless about the risks involved in their daily.
ENFORCEMENT OF WORKING SYSTEM
The employer is not only obliged to provide and establish a proper working system but enforce it as well.
PROVISION OF DIFFERENT SYSTEMS OF WORK
A prudent employer has to consider:
1. Permanent organization, for similar operations carried out daily (or often),
2. Organization for tasks which vary from day to day,
3. Organization for isolated tasks.
WORKMAN'S SKILLS AND PECULARITIES
As far as it concerns the staff (workmen), an employer has to bare in mind:
i)Allowance for infirmities or inexperience of individual workmen (each workman's peculiarities),
ii)Instruction and supervision of workers (for inexperienced workers).
PROVISION FOR SPECIAL CASES
Special consideration has to be given to the following cases:
1. Faulty co-ordination or branches of work, where one may endanger the other,
2. Planning for a specific task, especially lay-out of plant,
3. Method of using particular machines or performing particular processes,
4. Handling heavy loads,
5. Not enough men for task,
6. The use of dangerous materials and contact with diseases.
GENERAL CONDITIONS OF WORK
The employer has to bare in mind:
i) Ventilation, (in mines, places involving dangerous gases),
ii) Lighting, (adequate lighting to perform task),
iii) Fire precautions, (fire hoses, fire detectors, non-smoking signs, safety instructions),
iv) Access to work, (safe access),
v) Traffic conditions,
vii) Noise, (provision of ear muffs and warnings against loud noise),
viii) Washing facilities (exposure to dust or other dangerous substances).
THE SAFE CONDUCT OF WORKING OPERATIONS
The last branch of the employer's liability is that he is responsible for his own negligence and the negligence of his servants [since the Law Reform (Personal Injuries) Act 1948] in failing to carry out routine working operations safely (no unnecessary risks).
It is obvious that a manager is responsible (but not liable) for the provision of safety at work. He has to bare in mind all the above mentioned factors in order to plan safe working operations .Everything has to be perfectly coordinated and supervised in order to avoid any accidents and carry out the work as safely and efficiently as possible.
The tort of negligence requires employers acting through their management structure to provide safety for their employees at work. If there is an omission in any of the above mentioned aspects resulting an injury, such omission is evidence of negligence giving rise to liability .
Employer's Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Regulations 1971
Codes of Practice
Particular consideration has to be given on the contract of employment of each employee for any special terms (written or implied), conditions or warranties determining the rights and duties of each party.
An employer is liable both in cases of tort of negligence as well as in cases of breach of a statutory duty.
There are some defenses available to an employer in cases of occupational safety.
These are as follows:
-No negligence proved,
-Delegation of duty when permissible (e.g. to an independent contractor),
-Violenti non fit injuria.