Unsafe workplace is the employer’s responsibility

Unsafe workplace is the employer’s responsibility

Unsafe workplace is the employer’s responsibility

The employee (a teaching assistant) has been employed by the employer (a healthcare facility that provides closed youth care for youth between the ages of 12 and 23) since 2014. On July 30, 2019, the employee was bitten in the chest by a juvenile while working. As a result of the bite, the employee’s pectoral muscle was torn off. The accident occurred at the top of a staircase where there is a platform about 1.5 meters by 2 meters. The staircase leads to a door that gives access to the hallway with the young people’s bedrooms. On August 22, 2019, the employee held the employer liable for the damages he had suffered and would suffer. The employer acknowledged no liability for the accident. The employee sought a declaratory judgment that the employer was liable for the consequences of the accident.

The subdistrict court ruled that it was well established that the location where the employee worked had young people who could be aggressive. Since the inherent danger of violence against the staff is inherent in working with these young people and it has been established that this danger has materialized against the employee, it is incumbent on the employer to argue that it has ensured that the required high level of safety in the working conditions, tailored to the structural hazards referred to, has been met. The subdistrict court did not follow the employer’s contention that there was a safe workplace. The platform at the top of the stairs is separated by a door from the corridor containing the young people’s bedrooms. This door at the time of the incident was locked with a lock that only opened with a key, which logically causes some delay. This prevented the youngster from walking directly to his bedroom. The district judge ruled that the platform at the top of the stairs, with the door to the sleeping quarters that could only be opened with a key, did not qualify as a safe workplace. Moreover, the employer could have taken the necessary measures to make it safer for its employees. For example, a tag system could have been used that would have allowed the entrance door to be opened halfway up the stairs, allowing the young person and workers to pass through without delay at the top of the stairs. The subdistrict court ruled that the employer failed to fulfill its duty of care and was liable for damages.

The subdistrict court ruled that the employer is liable under Article 7:658 of the Civil Code for the consequences of the accident that happened to the employee on July 30, 2019, that the employer is liable for all material and immaterial damages resulting therefrom, and that it must compensate the employee for those damages. In addition, the employer was ordered to pay to the employee an advance payment of EUR 7,500 in damages suffered and to be suffered by him.

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Yvonne Sørensen