We are all aware that we are now living in very different circumstances following the coronavirus pandemic that has hit our country. The government has intervened in trying to manage the spread of the disease and to do what they can in order to deal with the pandemic.
We have been monitoring the position from a legal perspective and we anticipate that there will be many claims that will follow in relation to the spread of the disease and also claims that could be made by employees against their employers in relation to personal injury claims.
The general principle of law being that employers owe duty of care to their employees to keep them reasonably safe and to afford them a safe system of work and are reasonably safe processes or structures that would protect employees from the risks of harm.
This general principle can be extended in relation to duties that employers have to employees respect of the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
In addition, any prospective claimant would need to prove a causal link in relation to harm that they may have suffered having been related to their job/work. This would be subject to medical evidence and medical reports that would deal with issues of causation.
In relation to PPE, we anticipate that there may well be legal arguments on any claim in respect of the adequacy or the lack of PPE.
Apart from rights under the Common Law claims can also be advanced on statutory grounds. Principally this would come under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. More importantly this particular act makes it a criminal offence to contravene any “health and safety regulations”. These regulations are the EU regulations in respect of PPE and regulations relating to hazardous substances.
In respect of PPE it would be the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 and in respect of hazardous substances this would come under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (often referred to as the COSHH regulations). These are EU regulations and whilst we have left the EU, the implementation period still continues to run and will expire on 31 December 2020 and it is therefore arguable that these regulations will still have force.
Under the COSHH regulations, it is arguable that the coronavirus as a biological substance is and can be clarified as a hazardous substance.
It is therefore feasible on the basic first base principles that govern people’s rights to bring claims for personal injury under that claims for Covid 19 (coronavirus) that cause personal injury and death could be brought. This is very much a fluid situation and we will need to wait and see what other legislation the government may enact going forward and what attitude the judiciary take in respect of claims of this kind and what legal principles may be specifically be formulated to be applicable in such unprecedented times.
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