New Workplace Injury Rules Puts Employees at Risk

The government is currently cutting back on Health and Safety regulations and it will no longer be assumed automatically that a company is to blame for many work related injuries.

The newly planned changes to the Health and Safety regulations announced by David Cameron will mean that the ‘strict liability’ rules, whereby companies are assumed to be responsible for workplace injuries, will be relaxed.

Currently strict liability means that a company can be held responsible for personal injury to its workers even if the prosecution is unable to prove that the company had either intent in disregarding safety issues or that it at least foresaw that there was an avoidable risk. In law this is refereed to as “mens rea”.  Even if a company argues that that it is not at fault and that it has taken reasonable care to protect its employees, under “mens rea” it can still be held responsible.

An example of this is if a ladder used by a worker was inadequate under the work at height regulations. If this was the cause of an injury, under strict liability there is no need to prove that the ladder was inadequate. The fact that a worker was injured is sufficient in itself for the worker to make a compensation claim.

If the strict liability rules are removed then it will be necessary for the prosecution to prove that the company is at fault. The dangers are that some companies will take advantage of this and that the risks for employees will increase, also it will be considerably more difficult for employees to gain compensation for work related injuries.

Currently there is no time frame for introducing the new regulations; however Downing Street has indicated that they will be announced in the “near future”.