Workers' Health and Safety : Court to Define Employer Liability
With the European Commission scheduled to present a new strategy on workers' health and safety on 21 February, the Court of Justice of the European Communities is going to have to decide on a key question: the employer's responsability. The Advocate General of the Court, Paolo Mengozzi, in fact recommended that the Court dismiss the European Commission's application for the Court to declare that the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 5 of Directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work (conclusions handed down on 18 January 2007, Commission vs United Kingdom, Case C-127/05).
British legislation, since the introduction of the 'Health and Safety at Work Act' in 1974, arequires that all employers guarantee the health and safety of workers on work premises 'insofar as it isareasonably practicable'. The Commission sees this as yet further confirmation that 'the employer is liable for any event prejudicial to the safety and health of workers which occurs in his undertaking', with the sole possible exception of the cases specifically mentioned in the directive. This obligation, 'a component part of the Community regime for protecting the safety and health of worker' is absolute, 'should the preventive measures fail, the employer remains in any event objectively liable for the consequences that ensue for the health of his workers'.
After a detailed analysis of the context of the directive the Advocate General found the British legislation to be compatible with the Directive. …