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The limitations of an Employer’s duty of care to its employees was recently

The limitations of an Employer’s duty of care to its employees was recently confirmed by the High Court decision of Mr Justice Bernard J. in Fagan v. Dunnes Stores [2017] IEHC 430. Refrence

Mr Fagan, who had been employed by the defendant since 2011 as a hygiene operative, slipped and fell on some ‘viscous’ fluid on the floor of the vestibule in the defendant’s Cournel’s Court premises on the 29th April 2014 and suffered injuries as a result. Mr Fagan subsequently brought a claim against the defendant, Dunnes Stores, claiming negligence and breach of statutory duty. While the fall itself was not in dispute, whether his Employer owed the Mr Fagan a duty of care was.
During the case, the Defendant provided evidence that Mr Fagan had received training for his role, which included accident prevention training in accordance with the store’s shop floor cleaning policy. Further, it was established that as part of the plaintiff’s duties he had to execute a cleaning form, generally every fifteen minutes, at the customer services desk in which he had to record and initial the commencement and conclusion of each cleaning circuit he carried out in the grocery department. This ‘view as you go inspection system’ required Mr Fagan to be alert to dangerous substances on the floor and therefore he was given a specific cleaning protocol in these circumstances.

While Justice Barton J. acknowledged that the duty owed to an employee by their employer is to take reasonable care of the employee’s safety, he believed that the facts of each case required individual analysis, taking into consideration facts such as age, knowledge, experience, expertise, physical or mental disability, training, information and instruction. Justice Barton J. went on that; “the provisions of competent co-employees, proper appliances and work equipment together with a safe system and place of work are the categories most commonly involved in the assessment of the duty of care and whether or not there has been a breach of that duty.”

In his determination, Justice Barton J held that to find Dunnes Stores guilty of negligence and in breach of statutory duty would “be tantamount to finding that the Defendant was an insurer for the Plaintiff’s safety and thus strictly liable.” This would overreach the employer’s duty to an onerous degree and ultimately both of Mr Fagan’s claims were dismissed.

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