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Employers liable under HSW Act for risks caused by contractors

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    R v Associated Octel Co Ltd [1997] IRLR 123 HL (0 other reports)

The liability of an employer for the acts or omissions of a contractor it engages is the central issue in R v Associated Octel Co Ltd. Both the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords have considered this important case, and both have ruled that an employer cannot delegate the duty imposed by s.3(1) of the HSW Act. Section 3(1) states that it is the duty of every employer to conduct its undertaking so as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in its employment and who may be affected thereby are not exposed to risks to their health or safety. The courts' judgments make it clear that the s.3(1) duty extends to aspects of an employer's business, such as works of repair or maintenance, carried out by an independent contractor and to the risks that materialise from that work.