Ruling underlines employer responsibility for contractors

Ceva Logistics v (1) Mark Anthony Lynch (2) Steve W Lynch

T/A SW Lynch Electrical Contractors (Court of Appeal 25 February 2011)

The claimant, Mark Lynch, a qualified electrician was employed by his brother, Steve Lynch, the second defendant. The first defendant, Ceva Logistics, owned and operated a warehouse, which the claimant regularly visited in order to carry out electrical work.

On 19 September 2006, the claimant visited the first defendants warehouse for the purpose of inspecting the lights in the roof and, where necessary, replacing them.

The claimant was struck by a truck driven by an employee of the first defendant while walking across an aisle rather than using a cherry picker as he was required to do. The claimant did not see the truck before the accident, nor was there any criticism of the driver. The claimant suffered serious injuries of the upper limbs in the accident and claimed damages against both defendants under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

The Court held that the first defendant: had the ability to control the movement of vehicles and pedestrians within the warehouse; could not tell the claimant how to do his job, in so far as that involved identifying and replacing failed lamps, but they had both the right and the ability to control the way in which he moved around the warehouse for that purpose: and, therefore, owed a duty under Regulation 12 to the claimant and to anyone else who might be there to organise the movement of vehicles and pedestrians in such a way as to ensure that they could circulate in a safe manner and it could, by its control of the premises, enforce any rules it might make to achieve that end.

The first defendant was held 60% liable, the second defendant 40% liable with a 25% deduction to contributory negligence.

The court found that the first defendant owed the claimant a statutory duty to ensure that there was a proper separation of vehicles and pedestrians in the warehouse and that it was in breach of that duty in failing to draw to the claimants attention its rules relating to pedestrian access to the aisles.

This case highlights that employers hold a responsibility to ensure safe coordination between the activities of all individuals working within the warehouse, regardless of whether they are employees or sub-contractors.