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14 January 2009
Following the approval of the Consolidated Workplace Safety Act, two Supreme Court decisions shed light on an employer’s liability for injury in the workplace. Both cases involved an employee whose hand became caught in a machine while it was in operation. In the first case, although the employee admitted being absent-minded, the Supreme Court held the employer liable for the accident, confirming the verdict of negligent personal injury.(1) In the second case the court reversed a decision in favour of the employer - the lower court had held that the injury, which was suffered by an apprentice who had been informed about the use of security devices, could not be considered the result of a criminal offence.(2)
The decisions confirm the provisions of Article 2087, which requires employers to adopt all necessary safety measures imposed by law and by the principles of care, caution and expertise. The court has underlined that an employer must provide the best technical solutions available to protect its employees.(3)
Particular attention must be paid to training courses for apprentices, who must be thoroughly informed about the risks connected with their activity. However, the Supreme Court has stated that:
“imparting accurate training and information to employees does not exempt the employer from its duties of protection and vigilance in safeguarding its employees from injury, especially in the case of less-experienced apprentices.”(4)
The recent rulings demonstrate a stricter implementation of safety rules and diverge from previous court decisions that punished employers only if they had violated safety standards imposed by law.(5) Moreover, they establish that safety rules must protect employees even when damage or injury is self-inflicted. This line of decisions appears not to take into account the employee’s liability for a violation of safety measures on his or her own initiative, as provided in the act.(6)
For further information on this topic please contact Andrea Stanchi or Michela Martini at Stanchi Studio Legale by telephone (+39 02 546 9522) or by fax (+39 02 551 91641) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
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