Cook v Square D Ltd [1992] ICR 262

Law of Tort - Duty of care - employer’s liability – Reasonable care


The complainant was an electronics engineer that worked for Square D Ltd, a company based in the UK. He worked abroad sometimes and on this occasion, he was sent to work on a control system for Aramco in Saudi Arabia. The premises he worked in had removable floor tiles, in order to access wires and cables underneath. While he was working, one of the tiles was left uncovered and he slipped, injuring his knee. As he needed surgery, he claimed compensation from his employers, Square D Ltd for breach of duty of care.


It was held at first instance that Square D Ltd was liable. But, the employers appealed on the basis that they could not be responsible for the daily running on this premises and responsible for the accident from 8000 miles away.


The Court of Appeal overturned the original decision. To hold the employers liable abroad was unrealistic and there was no evidence the accident resulted from a breach of their employer duty. However, this was not to say that employer’s dispose of all their responsibilities when employees work overseas. They still have an overarching duty to take reasonable care not to expose employees to risks and dangers on another premise. Some circumstances may require an employer to inspect the premises. To find a breach of duty of care, several factors must be considered, including the type of building and workplace setting, the knowledge and experience of employees, the type of work to be carried out and the control an employer can have in the circumstances.