Vulnerable workers: A Barbour guide

Where workers are more vulnerable to accidents or work-related ill health, employers have an enhanced level of responsibility to ensure their health and safety.

This principle was established in the civil case Paris v Stepney Borough Council (1950). Mr Paris, a garage hand, sought damages against his employer because they had not supplied him with goggles. Mr Paris had sight in only one eye as his employer was aware. When a piece of metal flew into his good eye, he was left permanently blind. The House of Lords ruled that although the type of work may not have warranted eye protection in general, Stepney Borough Council should have taken his special circumstances into account.

Examples of workers who may fall into the category of vulnerable workers are:

  • New and expectant mothers;
  • Young people and children;
  • The disabled and those with long-term medical conditions;
  • Those with a temporary disability or condition, or returning to work after a long period of absence;
  • Those who are of significantly smaller, broader or taller stature, or who have less strength than the average worker for whom the job has been designed;
  • Older workers;
  • Migrant workers or those for whom English is not their first language;
  • Workers who due to their cultural beliefs may be more vulnerable, e.g. because they are constrained from wearing the usual personal protective equipment (PPE) supplied, or disinclined to question those in authority;
  • New starters, temporary workers and others unfamiliar with the particular workplace;
  • Lone workers;
  • Home workers.

The HSE’s guidance on the subject defines vulnerable workers as those who are at risk of having their workplace entitlements denied, and who lack the capacity or means to secure them. This guide however takes a broader approach to the topic.

COVID-19: Supporting workers in higher risk groups

The Public Health England report disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19, which shows that some groups of people may be at more risk of being infected and/or suffer an adverse outcome if infected.

The higher-risk groups include those who:

  • Are older males;
  • Have a high body mass index (BMI);
  • Have health conditions such as diabetes;
  • Are from some Black, Asian or Minority Ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds.

This Vulnerable Workers guide, from Barbour EHS, includes:

  • Legal Requirements;
  • COVID-19 Information;
  • Key actions;
  • Key terms;
  • Related Documents and Further Information.

Simply fill out the form opposite to access this free guide.

In association with Barbour EHS.

Barbour EHS

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