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Strict Liability?

Many claims against employers can and will fail when the claim is made as one of negligence by the employer. However, because of the multitude of duties imposed on employers by statute, it is common for the employer to be found liable to the employee for an injury even where the employer has not been “at fault” (meaning, here, “negligent”).

The duty imposed by Regulation 28 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 is a case in point. Its predecessor, Regulation 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 1993 was described in Doyle v Electricity Supply Board [2008] IEHC 88 as

“In the instant case, I have found that the plaintiff has not established a breach by the defendant of any duty at Common Law owed by the defendant to the plaintiff as his employer.
However, with effect from 22nd February, 1993, (when the Regulations of 1993 came into force), a statutory duty was imposed upon the defendant which has been described (by Kearns p. 263 in Everitt) “as virtually an absolute duty” which requires the defendant “ . . . to ensure that . . . the necessary measures are taken so that the work equipment is suitable for the work to be carried out or is properly adapted for that purpose and may be used by employees without risk to their safety and health”.”

Regulation 28 (and Regulation 19 before it) imposes duties on employers relating to work equipment. The equipment must be suitable and free of risk to the employee. It is not necessary to prove that the risk was known to the employer; all that is required is to prove the injury and relationship of the injury to the equipment.