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Strict but fair?

Stephen Walsh reports on the recent House of Lords decision on an employer’s liability for defective work equipment

16 July 2004

Claims for injury arising out of latent defects in work equipment are one of the most common classes of personal injury claim. Trades unions, insurers and their lawyers have tended to view them as straightforward cases where the employer will automatically be found liable under health and safety legislation. The practice amongst many insurers has been to admit liability and pay the claim before proceedings are ever issued. However, as the House of Lords’ decision in Fytche v Wincanton [2004] UKHL 31; (2004) 148 SJ 825 shows, liability is often not so straightforward. Regulatory regime Liability for defective work equipment is covered by statute. Three of the ‘six-pack’ health and safety regulations (see box below) deal with it, all in similar terms: reg 5 of the Workplace Regulations (the workplace and equipment, devices and systems), reg 6 of the Provision & Use...

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