The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Duty of Care for Self-employed

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In the UK, Section 3 (2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that:

"... it shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health and safety".

So fulfilling your duty of care if you're self-employed in the UK is vitally important. 

That fact has been highlighted in the UK courts recently; when a self-employed chimney sweep was found guilty of causing a death after failure to remove a bird's nest blocking a chimney flue led to the death of a pensioner in his home.

Phillip Jones was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £2,500 in costs at Cardiff Crown Court following the prosecution.

The court was told that 73-year-old retired miner Derwyn Rees of  Maesteg had experienced problems keeping his coal fire alight.

Mr Jones, was engaged to sweep the chimney.

But the next day, Mr Rees was  found dead in his bed.  A police-led investigation revealed he died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The investigation revealed an extensive bird's nest inside the chimney.

Although Mr Jones had encountered a blockage of the chimney while sweeping, he did not check to see if his brush cleared the chimney pot which would indicate the blockage had been cleared.

 In addition, he failed to carry out a proper smoke test after completing the job,

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