A few days ago I posted on the duty of care. I invited comments but obviously, while there was interest in the post no-one thought to give me their views! No matter, I thought I’d share mine again!
There is a general rule under Tort law which give any of us in business a duty to care for others. This means if anyone visits our premises, whether it is a contractor, a customer, a visitor, or anyone else for that matter, we have a duty to make sure they don’t come to harm. If they have an accident they could claim against us.
There is also a substantial amount of legislation which is specific on the duty of care, for example, the Health & Safety at Work Act, the Regulatory Reform (Fire safety) regulations to name a couple.
So how do you protect yourself?
If you operate a business whether or not it has a fixed premise, you have the responsibility under law to make sure no-one comes to harm. This doesn’t mean that those who use your premises don’t also have responsibilities and if they act in a way that causes themselves or others harm then the responsibility may not be yours.
Some areas where I know that often people don’t always appreciate that they have such responsibilities are in the private rented sector, both permanent and holiday letting. Did you inherit a house and don’t want to live in it so you decided to rent it out? Yes, you are in business and the duty of care DOES apply !
Difficult area… I’m not a lawyer but there are certain steps you should take to protect yourself. Some of this is laid down in legislation but here are a few points to remember:
- Make sure you have public liability insurance
- Carry out risk assessments, for health and safety and fire
- Carry out an access review, you don’t want people falling down steps
- Make sure the products you supply are safe, get a PAT test done, is the furniture you supply fire retardant,
- Where you are legally obliged, for example you rent a house with gas central heating, get it checked annually
- Fit carbon monoxide monitors and smoke detectors where people are living in your house
- Check the electric system every 5 years.
Above all, remember that even if the duty of care is not specifically designated you may still be liable!