Votes for changes to Civil Liability in Health and Safety legislation

The House of Commons has voted in favour of a clause amending the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which will remove strict liability in cases where there has been a breach of a statutory duty.

The proposed change to civil liability found in the Enterprises and Regulatory Reform Bill will now proceed to the House of Lords for consideration.

The original recommendation was made by Professor Löfstedt in his independent health and safety review in 2001, in which his report noted that there are cases where employees have been awarded compensatory damages for injury, even where the employer has done everything that is reasonably practicably and foreseeable to avoid that injury. The reason for this is due to the strict liability on employers found in certain regulations, which makes them legally responsible for damage caused by their acts or omissions, regardless of whether they were negligent or failed to do all that was reasonably practicable. He recommended that regulatory provisions that impose strict liability be reviewed by June 2013 and amended.

The amended clause will remove the right for certain civil claims to be brought for breach of a statutory duty contained in health and safety legislation, and the intended effect is that employers who have taken all reasonable precautions will not be liable to be sued for a technical breach of a statutory duty. The Government hopes that it will reduce the ‘regulatory burden’ on employers, and coincides with a number of other current ongoing initiatives on the removal of ‘red tape’.

Follow progress of the Enterprises and Regulatory Reform Bill 2012/13 on the Parliamentary website here.