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Hi all, I hope you can steer me in the right direction.  I was having a conversation with one of our parish councillors in regard to the way their own workmen occasionally act when carrying out tasks around the village, as sometimes they're less than careful and could easily lead do damage of private property!  He said he'd have a word but also went on to say something quite shocking to me.  This was that apart from some very specific things the council has no duty of care to parishioners when carrying out council duties.  Is this correct??  I have googled all I can to try and find an answer but have been very unsuccessful.  Is there some sort of document that lays out duty of care, or is it all down to the parish councils themselves to decide what duty of care means to them?
Many thanks for allowing me to ask this.
by (120 points)

2 Answers

0 votes
If you want a definitive answer, I'm afraid you will probably have to pay a lawyer with relevant expertise. For what it's worth, my opinion is that workmen employed by a council are agents of the council and that the council has a liability for harm caused by them. Some general comments on duty of care can be found at http://www.e-lawresources.co.uk/Duty-of-care.php.

Another angle is insurance. Any council large enough to carry out such work must have an insurance policy to cover third party claims. You might find more information by studying the policy (or a sample local council policy) or consulting an insurer that underwrites such policies.
by (33.5k points)
Thank you so much.  That is a very interesting site and certainly helps me significantly.  Much appreciated!
0 votes
You’d have to be more specific about exactly what it is that causes concern. I’m going to guess strimming grass verges?

Many activities have specific requirements according to the nature of the activity eg, work in the highway / highway margin is likely to require signing, lighting and guarding, May require a ‘licence’ from LA and has specific PPE requirements for the protection of the worker and the highway user.
Work at height, work with machinery (hand arm vibration) , work where harm may be caused to others (spraying chemicals) all have very specific regulations and management of H&S requirements.
There is a hierarchy of compliance starting with high level statutory requirements which is distilled down through many  levels to working level ‘guides’ and good practice documents based on industry codes of practice.
So generally, work based activities which carry an inherent risk of harm to the worker or to anybody the worker comes into contact with, are governed by H&SaWA.
There is also the Occupiers Liability Act which requires that land and property are kept in such condition as to not give rise to the risk of harm to others - whether invited or not.
Whilst lacking specific detail, if your Cllr thinks the council carries no liability for the actions of employed, contracted or even volunteer workers, then they are the liability!

Report, specifically, the detail of your observations in writing to the council.
There is limited potential for mitigation for damage or harm caused when it is possible to show that the responsible entity was reasonable unaware of the situation prior to it occurring.
If there is a written record of a report of reasonable concern, that potential mitigation is removed - this may be significant in a subsequent civil or criminal action and it would be considered by HSE investigation.
by (22.2k points)
Very many thanks for your reply.  Yes strimming is one of the activities.  The guys don't even wear much in the way of PPE themselves and I've never seen them wear eye protection for anything.
Strimming is not the only concern though as there is a general couldn't-care-less attitude across the board.  It's hard to be specific but if for example they do any painting there's usually plenty of paint on the surrounding area and sometimes this is private property.  If they do any other grounds maintenance such as cutting hedges, they leave lots of evidence on the ground.  Often there's thorns in the cuttings and dog-walkers have complained for obvious reasons.

Another time they recently cleared rubbish dumped from a council site but left it piled on private land for a couple of days before they cleared it.  This isn't something that is going to land them in court but is very annoying for the householder.

It's a general air of negligence from the top of the council downwards as far as I can see, but yes I think it's time to put things in writing.  I just didn't want to be the one to do it!

Thank you again.
PPE is a very basic requirement which has been widely understood for decades!

A lapsidazical approach to PPE is often the entry level indicator of systemic ignorance and non-compliance which is much more deep rooted and systemic.
Maybe there is a written safe system of work - which the employees must have read and signed - and that they are simply ignoring it, or there isn't even a safe system of work in place.

Should one of those staff lose an eye (its not overly dramatical) and there is no safe system of work, the employer - the PC, and therefore by default the tax payer, will be presented with the cost of paying for the pleasure of the HSE investigation, potential fine and possible injury compensation.   All because PC management was either knowingly or negligently non-compliant.

The 'little things' are almost invariably indicators of greater underlying issues....
What the law says:

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 place duties on employers to ensure that PPE is:

 - properly assessed before use to make sure it is fit for purpose
 - maintained and stored properly
 - provided with instructions on how to use it safely
 - used correctly by workers

Employers must ensure workers have sufficient information, instruction and training on PPE use.
Thank you so much for this.  All of what you say is of course pertinent and relevant to the issues but the reference to the PPE at Work Regulations is most helpful.  Very much appreciated!  Thank you.

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