HEALTH AND SAFETY OF WORKERS : ECJ SAYS BRITISH LAW CONFORMS TO EU LEGISLATION.
On 14 June, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) dismissed the European Commission's appeal against the "reasonably practicable" clause of British legislation on the health and safety of workers (Case C-127/05). The Commission has not adequately shown that this clause limits, due to disregard for the provisions of the directive of 12 June 1989, the responsibility of employers and the obligation incumbent upon them to guarantee the safety and health of workers. The Court is thus following the opinion of its advocate-general.
Under British law (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974), each employer must ensure the health, safety and welfare of all of its workers at work "to the extent that is reasonably practicable". Any breach of these obligations gives rise to criminal sanctions. The Commission considers that this provision enables an employer to escape from his responsibility if he succeeds in showing that adopting measures to ensure the safety and health of the workers would have been grossly disproportionate in terms of money, time or trouble, when balanced against the relevant risk. This is not conform to the case expressly provided for by the directive (Article 5, Paragraph 4).
As a preliminary comment, the Court notes that the Commission criticises the disputed clause not only on account of its capacity to introduce a limit on the employer's liability, but also on account of its capacity to affect the scope of the general duty of safety incumbent on the employer.
The Commission's interpretation of the existence of responsibility, which is without any civil or criminal fault of the employer, according to the directive, is not justified, according to the judges, either by the wording, legislative history, or the scheme of the directive. For them, the Commission has not shown why the objective of the directive could not be attained by means other than the setting up of a no-fault liability regime for employers and why the disputed clause of the British law limits the employer's liability. Likewise, on the influence of the clause on the scope of the safety obligation incumbent upon the employer, the Court considers that the Commission has not adequately specified its arguments.
The decision is available at www.europolitics.info => subscribers => advanced search => reference = 202303
According to the directive of 1989, an employer is obliged to ensure the safety and health of workers in all aspects related to work. By derogation, a member state can provide for the exclusion or the reduction of the responsibility of employers for "where occurrences are due to unusual and unforeseeable circumstances, beyond the employers' control, or to exceptional events, the consequences of which could not have been avoided despite the exercise of all due care".
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|Date:||Jun 22, 2007|
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