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James Maxwell-Scott KC considers the Supreme Court decision in HM Inspector of Health & Safety v Chevron North Sea Ltd

The Supreme Court gave judgment today in HM Inspector of Health & Safety v Chevron North Sea Ltd [2018] UKSC 7. The case reached the Supreme Court because there were different interpretations of section 24 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 in Scotland (Inner House decision in Chevron) and England (Court of Appeal decision in Hague v Rotary Yorkshire [2015] EWCA Civ 696).

The Supreme Court held that, on an appeal under section 24, the Employment Tribunal is not limited to considering the matter on the basis of material which was or should have been available to the inspector at the time the notice was issued. The Tribunal is entitled to take into account all the available evidence relevant to the state of affairs at the time of the service of the notice, including information coming to light after it was served.

In doing so the Supreme Court rejected the HSE’s appeal and the reasoning of the Court of Appeal in Hague v Rotary Yorkshire.

The decision provides welcome clarification of the law. It is also welcome news for recipients of Prohibition Notices and Improvement Notices who will in future not be prevented from relying on expert evidence proving that, at the time a notice was issued, there had in fact been no risk. Thus in Chevron, the appellant could rely on tests carried out some months later which proved that the metalwork of a staircase passed the British Standard strength test and there had been no risk of persons falling through it. In Hague v Rotary Yorkshire, the appeal failed because the Tribunal refused to consider the evidence of tests carried out the day after the notice was issued which proved that electrical equipment suspected by the inspector or being live had in fact been dead at the time of the inspection. In future, a Tribunal would be required to take such evidence into account.

The full text of the judgment is available here.

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