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  • Writer's pictureRobert Spicer

More Health and Safety cases

Health and Safety at Work Act leading cases (5)

Section 6: Injury during trials of dummy mine

Case: McKay v Unwin Pyrotechnics Ltd (1991)

Section 6 of the 1974 Act states, in summary, that it is the duty of any person who designs, manufactures, imports or supplies any article for use at work to ensure that it is safe and without risks to health.

In the McKay case, M was injured as the result of the explosion of a prototype dummy mine which he was testing to ascertain whether it would explode when hit by a flail attached to a vehicle. S was a self-employed explosives expert engaged to act as a consultant in the design, testing and manufacture of the dummy mine. Unwin was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive. The case was dismissed by the magistrates court and the HSE appealed to the Divisional Court.

The appeal was dismissed. It could not be said that the mine was designed or manufactured for use at work. The design and manufacture of the dummy mine was to determine whether in fact it could be used at work. Unwin Pyrotechnic was not liable.

Section 7: Failure to warn motorists of roadworks

Case: Skinner v HM Advocate (1994)

Section 7 of the 1974 Act states that it is the duty of every employee while at work to take reasonable care for himself and others who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work.

In Skinner v HM Advocate, S was a Gas Board supervisor responsible for a site where a new gas main was being laid. He was convicted under section 7 for failing to warn motorists of the work. He appealed on the basis that the site was controlled by a co-employee and that S could not be expected to be at the site all the time. The appeal was dismissed. S was supervisor of the entire site and had been put on notice of the danger at that particular location. It was open to a jury to decide that he had failed to take reasonable care for the safety of others. He should have taken steps to ensure that his instructions to place proper signs had been carried out.

Section 7: Under police caution

Case: Thomson v Barbour (1994)

T was an under-gamekeeper who had been the object of police inquiries at his workplace. He was cautioned by the police. He took the police to his workroom, which they searched. T was charged under section 7 with having in his possession stupefying and toxic substances in unlabelled containers and with failing to warn the police of their presence. T argued that he could not be said to have been at work at the time. The court found that T was not liable. He had not been “at work” at the time of the search. Once he had been cautioned, he was acting solely on his own behalf from then on. The substances referred to had been kept in a locked box which had to be broken open at the police station. There were no findings as to the risk to which the police had allegedly been exposed.

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