On 18th January 2016, Fraser Rowland was delivering roof trusses to a site in Northumberland. During his delivery, some of the heavy trusses fell from the lorry directly onto some of the site workers. Paul Rowley, a labourer at the site heroically tried to shield his fellow workers from the falling trusses by pushing them to safety, but in doing so, he was forced face down onto a patch of newly laid tarmac and crushed under the weight of the timber. Such was the impact of the crushing weight, he suffered extremely serious injuries which led to his permanent paralysis from the waist down. Following a thorough investigation, Mr Rowland was charged with causing serious injuries by dangerous driving, given a 20-month suspended prison sentence, and banned from driving for three years. Lynne McKevitt, Motor Patrols Sergeant of Northumbria Police, stated: “Ultimately, this case should act as a stern warning to those working in this type of industry, about the importance of ensuring your load is properly secured before getting behind the wheel of your vehicle”.
Who was responsible, the worker or the employer?
The situation above is one example of a serious injury caused by the negligence of another worker – but there are many others. What would happen if you slipped because a colleague had caused a spillage and didn’t do anything to rectify it, or if a heavy object fell onto you because a fellow worker didn’t observe safe procedures for stacking or transporting items?
Many people believe that if you are injured as a result of the actions or behaviour of a someone else at work, they will be unable to claim financial compensation because it wasn’t the direct fault of the employer – it was the caused purely by the negligent act of the employee. This is not the case. If an employee of a company causes you to be injured, it is the employer who is responsible for your health and safety, and this cannot be deferred to the negligent employee.
Vicarious liability, under UK law, means that an employer can be held liable for the actions or negligence of its employees, but only in the course of employment. If the employer who caused the accident was acting in a personal capacity, then the employer cannot be held liable. According to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), to avoid being deemed liable for the negligent actions of an employee, it would need to be proven that the employer took all reasonable steps possible to avoid the occurrence of such actions or omissions. For example, this might include rigorously enforcing speed limits within a warehouse for fork-lift trucks, or ensuring that workers and moving vehicles are kept separate. In the case of an act of violence by one employee on another, the employer would need to show they took all reasonable steps to vet the suitability of new employee candidates – including checking references of previous employers, and encouraging any concerns relating to the inappropriate behaviour of another colleague to be reported to management in a manner that is supportive, taken seriously and then actioned. In general, employers must ensure that their policies and procedures are up to date and thoroughly enforced in terms of health & safety, whistle-blowing, disciplinary matters, and the expected level of conduct of employees.
The question of liability can become more complex if a contractor or agency-worker is used, and that person then causes an accident or injury to an employee. Typically, employers are not liable for the actions or omissions of contractors, however, if they fail to properly supervise them, or check that the person who was contracted was competent, then the employer may be vicariously liable. If you have suffered an injury as a result of a contracted or agency worker, and are unsure of your of legal rights to claim compensation, contact one of our specialist workplace injury solicitors who will be able to confirm if your employer is liable for the accident.
Employers Liability Insurance
Most employers will have explicitly stated within the scope of their employer’s liability insurance, provisions which cover them for losses (including workplace compensation claims) if they are vicariously liable due to the actions or omissions of an employee. In other words, if they have assessed their risk profile correctly, they will have considered the protection they need to prevent them needing to directly foot such a claim. The risks of such a claim are not just financial, but also reputational.
How can I claim compensation if I have been injured by someone at work?
If you have a valid case for compensation, we will guide you through the process of making a claim for damages for any pain and suffering you have endured, and any financial expenses and losses you have (or will in the future due to the injury) incurred.
There is a three-year time limit in which to make a claim. We encourage our claimants to gather as much evidence as possible to support their claim, including photographs of the accident, the location and injuries that resulted, the contact details of any witnesses, details of the incident, and any other information which will support your case.
At Russell Worth Solicitors we specialise in personal injury claims. If you have suffered a workplace injury and would like a free claim assessment, please call us now on 0800 028 2060 or complete our Online Claim Assessment.