Blink and you can miss an English Summer. But whether short lived or prolonged, hot spells bring out teenagers who seem inexorably drawn to quarries, be they used or dis-used. And everyone knows that teenagers and quarries don’t mix. More so on those sites with deep water.
So what is your legal position when trespassers are injured whilst on your site?
In English common law you owe a duty of care to the public at large. Does it apply to trespassers? The simple answer is yes. This common law position is further cemented by statutory law. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 make quarry operators responsible for the safety of anyone who may be affected by their activities. Additionally, the Quarries Regulations 1999 require quarry operators, where appropriate to erect and maintain suitable barriers for discouraging trespass. So, who decides what is reasonable? Well, ultimately the courts will do so but in the first instance the answer is in your hands. You must do what is reasonable in the circumstances. Barriers are appropriate where it is reasonably foreseeable that members of the public are likely to trespass and suffer injuries. You must make informed and prudent judgements about the risks posed by your site and take reasonable precautions to prevent accidents and injuries….even to trespassers. A site in close proximity to an urban area would warrant a greater degree of perimeter protection in contrast to an isolated site for instance.
You might think about the types of risk posed by your site:
- Hypothermia and drowning from cold water
- Stomach problems and infections caused by alkaline or rancid water
- Serious injury from submerged machinery
- Falls from height
- Slips and trips on shifting ground
Managing the risk posed by trespassers is essential. Make sure you:
- Clearly display appropriate signage
- Provide readily available rescue equipment
- Encourage staff to report trespass and record all such incidents
- Maintain any barriers. The period before the school holidays is a good time to do this.
If the worst does happen and a trespasser is injured, am I insured?
Your public liability insurer will handle any such claim made against you by the injured party. Your insurer will weigh the merits of the case and may decide to defend you or alternatively they may admit liability on your behalf. In either event your insurer will meet both the costs of defending and handling a claim as well as any compensation that might be payable. But beware; public liability policies are subject to a limit on payments (referred to as a limit of indemnity). We see many policies with a limit of £5m and yet in recent years we have seen instances of claims being settled for much higher amounts.
ProAktive are expert insurance brokers and risk managers to many quarrying and associated companies across the UK. If you want to talk to us about this or any related topic, please contact us by calling 01302 341 344.
By Ian Laycock