Corporate responsibility for industrial incidents
Corporate responsibility for industrial incidents

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Corporate responsibility for industrial incidents

2.3 Development of employers' duty of care

Lord Wright stated in Wilsons and Clyde Coal Co v English [1938] AC 57 that an employer was under a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of his men. It was convenient to divide it up threefold, with the obligation to take reasonable care to provide:

  • a competent staff
  • adequate material
  • a proper system and effective supervision.

Lord Wright stressed that these were ‘fundamental obligations of a contract of employment ... for which employers are absolutely responsible’. As such, these duties are not able to be delegated to others and so cannot be avoided by employers.

These duties have been developed and refined by subsequent case law. In particular, it now also encompasses the duty to provide a safe place of work and has been extended beyond protection from physical harm in the workplace to embrace the protection of the employee’s mental well-being, too.


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