News from the Courts – “Reasonable Care” in a Health & Safety Claim by an Employee

In a recent case an employee issued proceedings against his employer for an accident that occurred during the course of their job. The incident arose when the employee fell and injured his back, while taking a shortcut down a steep slope on his way back from doing a routine check of the reservoir manhole. There was an alternative route to reach the manhole with little or no incline, only 10 or 15 metres away, fact that was highlighted by the employer in their defence.

The employee in question had been with the organisation for some time and referenced other similar incidents of employees who had also slipped at the same area. However, there was no record of these having been reported to the company.

During the hearing there was no evidence found that suggested the company had required the employee to use the steep route, as well as a number of inconsistencies regarding medical examinations of the employee which brought the extent of his injuries into question.

The findings focused section s13 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and made reference to a similar case where the same legal principles could be applied i.e. the application of common sense principles as to what amounts to reasonable care. The conclusion was that the employee had simply failed to take reasonable care for his own safety.

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