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Painting contractor liable in damages

May 2009 - Employment. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

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Employers may be liable in damages to their employees if they fail to organise work properly and inform them of any risks associated with the work. This was established by the Western High Court.

A painting contractor was ordered to pay damages to one of his painters who was injured when she fell from a ladder. He had failed to organise the work properly and properly instruct the employee, so the High Court found.

The employee and one of her colleagues were polishing and painting window frames at a height of four metres. A ladder was therefore required. When she finished painting one of the window frames, the ladder slipped and she fell to the ground, fracturing her heel.

The employee then sued her employer for damages. She argued that the work had not been planned, organised or carried out so as to ensure safe working, and the employer had failed to properly instruct about the risks associated with the work.

Unlike the lower court, the High Court found for the employee. The Court emphasised that the ladder had not been a safe tool in the situation, because it could not be set up at the recommended angle of 75 degrees (the recommendation can be found in the guidelines of the Danish Working Environment Authority on requirements for and use of transportable ladders). In addition, the employer had failed to stress to the employee and her colleague that one of them would have to support the ladder on the ground while the other stood on the ladder.

Norrbom Vinding notes: 

  • that when determining whether a tool is safe to use in a given situation, the courts will take into account the recommendations/guidelines issued by the Danish Working Environment Authority

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