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Toolbox Tips #1 (Part 2) - Liability and Employer's Duty

Kevin Stretton - Monday, February 08, 2016


The history of encoded precedent


•         1862 – Chief Justice Cockburn & later Lord Thankerton in the House of Lords encode common law precedent into standard legislation

•         A clear distinction arises between delegable & personal responsibility

•         The problem had always existed how to define the delegation of authority & responsibility to employees who have no or little control over decisions made in their workplace

•         If responsibility could not be delegated then to what extent does an employer remain liable for enacting their duty of care?


Q & A:




What connection is there between this information and that found in legislation?

Managers & supervisors are agents of the employer

What principle is involved?

A clear directive and classification of duty with distinctions on the extent of liability



Defining the interpretation of care & responsibility


•         Whether the employer performs this duty themselves or through an agent (servants) a failure to ensure the duty is performed becomes the employer’s negligence.

•        This includes acts and omissions.


•         Therefore, Lord Shaw stated (1912):

o   Employers must provide competent staff

o   Adequate materials, premises, plant & equipment

o   Proper systems of work

o   Effective supervision


Q & A:




What connection is there between the 1912 definition and current legislation?

Codification of Common Law

What principle is involved?

Vicarious liability. An incident resulting in injury with a causal link to breaches of the 4 principles above immediately places the employer in a position of liability

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