Agency workers injured in platform fall: who is responsible?
02 Jul 2012
It has recently been reported that two temporary workers suffered life-changing injuries as a result of poor health and safety practices by a manufacturing firm to whom they were supplied. So, we are revisiting the obligations of agencies and hirers towards temporary workers.
What health and safety obligations are agencies and hirers obliged to supply for temps?
Under health and safety legislation the employer is responsible for its employees, and for the purposes of the legislation, both the agency and the hirer are likely to be deemed an employer - and therefore have responsibility for the health and safety of a temp.
Due to the nature of how temporary workers operate, the bulk of the responsibility falls on the hirer. However, the agency is required under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 to make reasonable enquiries to ensure that the temp will not suffer a detriment by being placed a temporary role. This could be achieved by obtaining a risk assessment or similar information from the hirer.
LAWSPEED TIP: Agencies should seek expert advice before agreeing to a client’s own terms
There are further risks to agencies where an indemnity is agreed with a hirer. As although overall responsibility will remain with a hirer, the agency may have to cover the cost of any loss sustained by the hirer, depending on what is in the contract.
Hirers should ensure that they are taking agency workers into account when carrying out health and safety risk assessments, taking measures to limit these risks and passing this information on. You ought to ensure that your clients have carried out an assessment, and if the client information is not forthcoming, you may decide to go on site to assess any risks yourself.
In this case temporary workers were injured after falling 4.5 metres from a makeshift platform during the performance of their work.
The HSE found that the platform was unsafe (due to the directors of the company not following guidelines and standards in the design of the platform).The hirer was found to be in breach of its obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and fined £22,000 plus costs. If there were an indemnity agreed here, the agency could have suffered substantial loss.
For advice on agreeing to client own terms contact Lawspeed on 01273 236236.
By Ricky Coleman at Lawspeed