Bux v Slough Metals [1973] 1 WLR 1358

Employer’s liability; contributory negligence; whether compliance with statutory duty excludes common law duty of care.

Facts

Mr Bux was employed by the defendant as a die-caster. This involved him lifting molten metal from a furnace with a ladle and pouring it into a die. During training and for the first two months of his employment, his employer failed to provide goggles. Goggles were then supplied but Mr Bux found they misted up, so he told his supervisor they were useless and ceased to use them. He was not encouraged to use the goggles and suffered severe eye injuries when molten metal splashed from the furnace. He sought damages for breach of Regulation 13(1)(c) Non-ferrous Metals (Melting and Founding) Regulations 1962 and for breach of the common law duty to ensure goggles were worn.

Issues

The employer was under a duty to provide goggles under Regulation 13(1)(c) of the 1962 Regulations and also under a duty under common law to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their employees in the workplace. The employer asserted there was no breach of statutory duty because goggles were provided, and the satisfaction of their statutory obligations necessarily absolved them of any liabilities at common law. They also claimed Mr Bux was in breach of Regulation 13(4) of the 1962 Regulations for failing to wear the goggles provided.

Held

Mr Bux was awarded damages with a reduction of 40% for contributory negligence. The employer had discharged their statutory duty by providing goggles. Compliance with statutory duties does not abrogate the ordinary common law duty of care owed to an employee to take reasonable steps to ensure safety equipment is worn. Mr Bux had breached the 1962 Regulations by failing to wear the goggles and his damages were, therefore, reduced by 40%.