As many people are aware, an employer is under an obligation to provide a safe workplace for its employees. However, the legal interpretation of the ‘workplace’ may extend further than the employer and employee may expect. An injury suffered in an office or on the factory floor would clearly fall within the ‘workplace’, although in reality the duty on the employer covers far more.
Under current regulations, where an employer provides a facility to be used by an employee in connection with his or her work, this will also form part of the ‘workplace’. An example of this, which will often be overlooked, would be where an employer provides a car park. As this is to be used by employees in connection with their employment, it would form part of the ‘workplace’ and the employer would therefore be under a duty to ensure that it was safe.
Routes or facilities for entering and leaving the workplace would also fall under this obligation. For example, where an employee must use a lift or staircase to access their office, this would constitute part of the ‘workplace’. The employer would therefore be responsible for injuries suffered by an employee as a result of any defect in the route or facility even though it may well not maintain this area.
On occasions, an employer may argue that it should not be responsible as it is a tenant and that the landlord is accountable for the premises. This duty to an employee is however non-delegable and so the employer will still be liable to its employee. Although the employer may be able to seek a remedy from the landlord, it still remains responsible to its employee.
William Broadbent, a solicitor in Penningtons’ personal injury team, commented: “Many individuals are uncertain as to who is responsible for accidents that occur around rather than strictly ‘in’ the workplace. Employers and their insurers often argue that defects are the responsibility of another party but the legislation on this is clear and intended to protect employees in the wider workplace.”