Brown v NCB [1962] AC 574

Employer liability for personal injury arising out of statutory duty of a manager to keep roads secure.


An electrician was employed in a coal mine. A damaged tub was sent up a haulage in the drift and, on the way up, collided with and displaced a prop supporting the roof of the road, causing stone to fall. A second fall of stone hit the electrician, causing him injury.


Section 48 of the Mines and Quarries Act stipulates a duty on the manager of a mine to take step necessary to keep the road and working place secure. The issue arose as to whether the manager of the mine was in breach of this statutory duty and thus liable to the electrician, employed by the manager, that was harmed when a stone fell from the roof above.


The Court held that the duty to of managers of mines to keep roads “secure” under Section 48 of the Act was not an absolute duty. The Court opined that the duty that applies to keeping roads “secure” was to maintain a “physical condition of stability” on the basis of the “best obtainable information as to the circumstances” as well as contemporary engineering (per Lord Radcliffe, pp 591-592) It was held that the manager had fulfilled this duty. On the facts, the injury to the claimant from stone fall was caused by a tub’s collision that knocked away a prop supporting the roof. Prior to this event, the roof was secure. Further, the claimant was injured immediately after the prop was knocked away, leaving no opportunity for the manager to rectify it. Thus, the manager was held to have fulfilled his statutory duty to take reasonable steps to secure the road and was not liable for the injury.