Employer not employee must assess risk

Posted: 5th October 2011

A recent case illustrates the danger for employers of falling into the trap of believing that because some training has been given, that is sufficient for them to fulfil their duty to adequately control risks.
A delivery driver was reversing a partially-elevated mobile platform when he struck an overhead pipe and was killed. The pipe had not been identified as a hazard, but the site entrance had a danger sign indicating that headroom was limited.
Although the driver had been trained in the use of equipment similar to that which he was using, he had not had any refresher courses for several years, nor had he been trained to drive a machine as big as the one he was manoeuvring.
Maximum Height Sign
The court criticised the dead man’s employer for not keeping the employee up to date and for not putting into effect procedures to ensure he was aware of his surroundings. In particular, when the site had been visited by the company’s sales manager, no note had been made of the limited headroom.
The site operators came under fire for not taking enough care to mark clearly the dangerous pipe and for not erecting a warning sign to bring it to the attention of those approaching it.
Both were found to have contributed to the accident. The defence that it was the driver’s responsibility to carry out his own risk assessment was not accepted and he was not found to bear any responsibility for the accident.
This case illustrates the high standards expected of employers to ensure the safety of their employees and how easy it is to let appropriate standards slip. Health and safety policies should be kept under regular review and appropriate training kept up to date.