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Faulty Work Equipment

Can I claim for a faulty work equipment injury?

You have the right to feel safe at work and should be able to go to work in an environment which won’t cause you injury or illness. Employers have a legal duty of care towards their employees, so if you’ve suffered an injury from faulty equipment in your workplace, this can feel very unfair. If an employer has breached their legal duty of care towards an employee who has been injured as a result, then the employee could be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

There are many ways that an accident at work could happen, whether you work in a factory, office, shop, on a farm or any other workplace. Often, these accidents happen due to faulty equipment that hasn’t been maintained properly by your employer, as they’re legally required to do.

Accidents are also likely to happen in circumstances where employers are negligent or breach their statutory duties to keep their workers safe. If you have been injured at work because of faulty equipment, through no fault of your own, you can make an injury claim.

To find out whether you could claim for faulty work equipment injuries, you can get in touch with an expert legal adviser on 0800 234 6438, or enter your details into one of the call back forms on this page.

DID YOU KNOW: Of the 113 fatalities that occurred in the UK’s workplaces in 2019-2020, 14% involved contact with moving machinery.

What qualifies as ‘equipment’?

A faulty equipment injury claim can be brought in relation to any injury or condition caused directly by a piece of faulty or defective equipment. The legal meaning of ‘equipment’ for workplace injury purposes is surprisingly very wide-ranging – it is legally defined by regulations as “any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work”. It includes the tools of trade in any sector and industry – in fact, the courts have previously stated that it means “almost any equipment used at work”.

It’s hard to think of something in use in the workplace that doesn’t meet the definition of equipment. So, work equipment includes large pieces of machinery and plant, as well as small items such as mobile devices, and even stationery equipment. It also includes remote-controlled and self-propelled work equipment and other items.

If you have been injured while using any type of equipment or tool at work, and it was someone else’s fault – you may be able to make a claim.

Kinds of faulty equipment

Unsurprisingly, the huge range of work equipment across the UK’s varying sectors and industries means that there are innumerable types of faulty or defective equipment. The most common types of faulty equipment include:

It may surprise you to know that a failure to provide instructions or operating manuals can also amount to faulty or defective equipment.

Accidents involving faulty equipment

It would be impossible for an employer to eliminate every risk, as accidents can and do happen. But they do have a duty to take reasonable steps to keep you safe and make sure risks are as reduced wherever possible.

While no-fault accidents can happen involving faulty or defective work equipment, they are typically the result of employer failure of some kind.

If a piece of equipment was faulty – i.e. didn’t operate in the way it was intended to – and this defect was responsible for your injury, then you might be able to make a compensation claim to cover the effects your injury has had on your life and finances.

DID YOU KNOW: Employers with more than five employees must have a written health and safety policy and a risk assessment of any aspects of the workplace which may be hazardous to either employees or visitors.

What types of injuries are caused by faulty work equipment?

Faulty equipment can be extremely dangerous, posing a risk of potentially significant injury. The biggest risks include electrocution, limb amputations and crush injuries. That said, the fact is that the types of injuries resulting from faulty work equipment can vary depending on the equipment involved and the circumstances that led to your injury. Examples of typical injuries from defective work equipment could include:

While some injuries will be minor with short recovery times, faulty work equipment can also cause serious, long-lasting injuries. No matter how serious or minor your case is, you deserve to be compensated in a fair way if you’ve suffered due to an employer’s negligence.

The most serious incidents involving faulty equipment can result in death. In these tragic cases, the family has the right to claim injury compensation.

DID YOU KNOW: £16.2 billion was the estimated cost of injuries and ill health caused by current working conditions in the UK during 2018/19.

What are the legal requirements of employees to keep workers safe?

The law provides a lot of protection for UK workers who are required to use equipment and machines in the workplace. Employers have strict legal responsibilities and obligations to ensure the workplace is safe, including that work equipment is safe and fit for purpose. They should also have procedures and processes in place to identify promptly any risks to health and safety and to deal with problems in a timely way. These are known as ‘risk assessments’ and should be carried out regularly. In fact, one of the most common causes of injuries is the lack of a risk assessment.

The key health and safety laws that apply to employers include:

What duties does PUWER place on employers?

Work equipment can be extremely dangerous and the government imposed these important regulations to tighten up health and safety wherever equipment, tools and machinery is used by workers. Since it was introduced in 1998, PUWER has become particularly important and is applicable to all equipment used in the workplace. PUWER places specific duties on businesses, including:

It is obvious how wide-ranging an employer’s responsibility is as far as work equipment is concerned. The risks are potentially so great that employers absolutely must implement clear processes and procedures governing how, and at what intervals they take all reasonable steps necessary to comply with PUWER and related regulations.

These requirements also apply to mobile equipment, so if your work takes you from business to business, or to domestic homes for installations, for instance, the rules apply just as much to the equipment you use in those places as they do on work premises.

The majority of employers do take their responsibilities extremely seriously – they want to protect the health of their workers and also their own reputation. But sometimes things can go wrong; and if there are any failings in these requirements and an accident occurs causing injury, a claim can then be made.

DID YOU KNOW: 218 accidents were recorded at the Health and Safety Executive itself and 57 people required medical treatment after an accident in the five years to 2020. Accidents reportedly involved injuries from machines. One HSE worker fell from a faulty chair and was paid £1,500 in compensation.

It was my own equipment that was faulty, not my employers. Can I still claim?

Your employer’s health and safety responsibilities towards workers extends to equipment that does not actually belong to the business. This means that the fact that you were using your own equipment does not mean the employer escapes responsibility. Importantly, PUWER specifically states that it covers equipment which employees provide for their own use at work. It also includes other equipment used during the course of work that the employer itself does not own, for instance, if other workers have brought in their own tools or machines for others to use.

It is always sensible to tell your employer if you intend bringing in your own equipment to work or have brought it in, so that they can then carry out the necessary inspections. However, the ultimate responsibility lies with the business to ensure that:

So if you have been injured while using your own equipment, or that of another worker in the workplace, your employer may be liable for your injuries.

Can I claim if I was injured while inspecting or cleaning the equipment?

In short, yes – if you were not actually operating or using the equipment but were simply cleaning or inspecting it, and you have been injured, you should still be able to make an injury claim. The regulations apply to the “use of work equipment” which is interpreted extremely widely. It means any activity involving work equipment, so it includes servicing, cleaning and maintaining the equipment; programming and setting a machine; repairing and modifying equipment; and even transporting it.

This means employers are legally expected to take appropriate measures to ensure maintenance operations, cleaning, inspection etc of work equipment can be done safely. This may mean ensuring there are procedures in place for the correct isolation from power supplies, detachment from another piece of equipment or appropriate protective gear provided to the maintenance person.

All these activities involving equipment, particularly machines and larger pieces of equipment, involve their own risks and it’s only right that if a fault in the machine causes an injury during these uses of the equipment that the victim can claim injury compensation.

What is revealed by the latest workplace health and safety statistics?

Health and safety is a hotly debated topic, with some seeing these laws as red tape that burdens businesses – however, statistics from the Health and Safety Executive show just how important it is that there are rules in place to protect people. There were, for instance, 1.6 million working people suffering from a work-related illness in 2019-2020; and 142 workers were killed in 2021-2021 according to RIDDOR.

There are also an increasing number of non-fatal injuries in the workplace: in 2019-2020 the number of workers reporting non-fatal injuries was 693,000 – up from 581,000 on the year previously.

DID YOU KNOW: Compensation will not come out of your employers’ pocket. Employers have a legal obligation to be covered for at least £5 million in liability insurance. It is this which will provide any compensation awarded.

Proving your employer was negligent or breached its statutory duties

To make a successful claim, your solicitor will need to show that your employer was negligent and/or it breached health and safety legislation. For a negligence claim, your solicitor will need to prove:

No matter how your injury or condition was caused, if it can be shown that it resulted from your employer’s negligence you should succeed.

More often than not, the claim will be based on breach of statutory duty – ie, breach of health and safety rules and regulations, because it’s usually easier to prove than a ‘pure’ negligence claim.

As explained above, employers have very clear and specific legal obligations to take the appropriate measures to minimise the risk of accident and injury from faulty equipment. Proving a breach will require evidence demonstrating a breach, ie that your employer did not take appropriate steps to minimise the risk of injury from a piece of equipment, even a failure to carry out an appropriate risk assessment.

The evidence and information you will be asked for might include:

It’s crucial that the strongest possible evidence and information is provided as early as you can, so that your solicitor can build the best possible case for you. For this reason, it’s best to start your claim as soon as possible while the details are fresh in your mind and while any supporting evidence is easier to gather.

DID YOU KNOW: A claim can still be pursued even if the business in question is no longer trading.

Can I still claim if I was partly responsible for my accident?

It is not uncommon for individuals who have been injured while working with or near faulty equipment think or assume they must have been to blame for what happened. However, in most cases that will not actually be the case, so even if you believe the incident was your fault, you should talk things over with a specialist adviser for free by calling 0800 234 6438.

For example, you may keep rehearsing the accident in your mind and have concluded that you must have done something to cause the piece of equipment to go wrong or you were using it wrongly. However, usually that is not the case – and it’s vital you talk it over with a solicitor who will take all the background information about the lead up to the incident to get to the bottom of what really caused the accident.

In some circumstances, you may assume your employer is not responsible because it was your own equipment, or one of your colleague’s. In some cases, that might be the case: for instance, suppose that you have come to work with own tool or equipment but you haven’t told your employer, even though all workers have been clearly instructed to inform your employer if they bring in equipment from work to use. If you then use it anyway and get injured as a result, it will not be fair or reasonable for your employer to be held responsible for your injuries.

However, if your employer knows that equipment has been brought in to be used in the workplace, but doesn’t take any safety measures in response; that indicates they could be held at least partly responsible.

So it’s important to understand that employers must comply with strict and robust health and safety rules and regulations to keep the risk of injury to a minimum, as far as they reasonably can. So don’t assume you cannot make a claim – always check with an expert adviser rather than lose your opportunity to make an injury claim.

It could be that when you make a faulty equipment claim, your employer may argue that you were partly to blame for your injuries (or may even deny responsibility altogether). However, it is then the employer’s responsibility to prove you were to blame, for instance, that they can demonstrate you recklessly ignored an obvious problem but used the equipment anyway.

Occasionally, a worker can be found partially to blame to blame for an accident involving faulty equipment (this is known as ‘contributory negligence’), in which case your employer would probably not have to pay you the full amount of compensation you would otherwise be entitled to. The full amount of compensation awarded to you would then be reduced by a proportionate amount to reflect your responsibility for the incident.

Always check your potential claim with specialist advisers as early as you can. It should not stop you making a claim, though it could reduce the amount of compensation you receive.

What if the equipment was inherently faulty – can I still sue the employer?

Businesses who order equipment for use in the workplace have every right to believe that when the equipment arrives it will be fit for use straightaway. But there are instances where equipment is faulty even before it leaves the warehouse, usually because of a manufacturing problem or it’s damaged during transit.

This is one of the many good reasons why health and safety regulations require employers to do proper safety checks and inspections both before and after installation. This is because there are scenarios where equipment is faulty when it reaches the employer. If faults are not picked up before they are used, whatever ‘use’ that may entail – there is a higher risk of injury. Importantly, from the worker’s point of view – employers are liable even if the defect is a manufacturer’s fault. Under the Employer’s Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1969 an employer is deemed negligent if:

So this means that if the inherently defective equipment causes injury, the employer should be held liable. That seems unfair for the employer, but the employer can then make a claim directly against the manufacturer or supplier.

There is, of course, no guarantee that all such faults will be picked up during initial safety inspections, but the employer will have discharged its legal obligation to the best of its ability to minimise any risks. It’s a very high burden for the employer to discharge, because the risk of injury can never be completely eliminated – worker safety is paramount.

Examples of real-life injuries caused by faulty equipment

  1. Vue Cinemas was fined £750,000 in July 2021 after it admitted health and safety breaches that led to a movie-goer’s death. Ateeq Rafi, who was 24 when he died in 2018, was watching a movie when he bent down to pick up his mobile phone. His neck was trapped by the electronic footrest and staff had to remove bolts from the chair to free him. He was deprived of oxygen and later died in hospital. The trial judge said there was a complete lack of risk assessment.
  2. A worker was killed while repairing the high-pressure grease track adjusting mechanism on a piling rig while working on a Premier Inn construction site. While the repair was under way, a high-pressure stream of grease was ejected from the equipment fatally injuring 24-year-old Ben Whylie. An HSE inspector said the accident could have been avoided had a risk assessment been undertaken and a safe system of work devised. The employer, Ruislip Plant, was fined £99,000 and ordered to pay £116,973 in costs.
  3. A casual worker on a farm was airlifted to hospital after his arm was pulled into a potato harvesting machine which had been brought back into use after years out of action. A section of the machine should have been guarded but wasn’t. The man’s fingers and forearm bones were broken and muscle from his forearm removed by the machine. The farmer was successfully prosecuted under PUWER and fined £5,000.
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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