Recent High Court Decision: O'Connor, Edward v Wexford County Council (2/5/2018 No. 2013/12479 P  IEHC 232)
Summary: The Plaintiff, an employee of the Defendant’s, suffered injuries to his back after slipping on a steep grassy bank at the Ferns Water Reservoir in Wexford. Mr O’Connor alleged that the Defendant, failed in its duty to provide a safe place and system of work under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 (the “Act”). The Council resisted the claim and alleged that the plaintiff himself was responsible for his injury as there was no requirement for him to go up the steep incline to reach the manhole cover.
Decision of the Court: Twomey J dismissed the claim. The Court held that the Plaintiff did not take reasonable care for his own safety by using the steep incline to access the manhole cover when there was a flat route a modest distance away. The Court further held that the route taken by the Plaintiff was not recommended by the Defendant in any way.
Comment: There is an onus on employers to provide a safe working environment, but this judgment clearly highlights that employees must take personal responsibility for their actions. There is scope for employers to have claims dismissed or damages mitigated by relying on Section 13 of the Act.