Knowles v Liverpool County Council [1993] 1 WLR 1428

Employer’s liability; whether flagstone equipment under Employer’s Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1969.


Mr Knowles was employed by Liverpool City Council as a labourer. In the course of his employment he was laying a flagstone in a Liverpool street. Whilst handling the flagstone, a corner of the stone broke off and caused injury to Mr Knowles’ finger. The breakage was a result of the manufacturers failure to have cured the stone correctly. Mr Knowles successfully claimed his employers were liable for his injury by virtue of their statutory duty under s1(1) Employer’s Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1969. The Council appealed.


S1(1) of the Employer’s Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1969 provides that if an employee is injured in the course of his employment as a result of a defect in equipment supplied by the employer in the course of his business, the employer shall be deemed to be liable for the injury even if the defect was caused wholly or partly by a third party, and even if the employer had no knowledge of the defect. The Council sought to argue that the flagstone did not amount to ‘equipment’ for the purposes of the Act, and sought to make a distinction between ‘equipment’ and ‘materials’, claiming that the flagstone in question amounted to materials.


The House of Lords dismissed the Council’s appeal. The purpose of the Act was to protect employees who are injured by exposure to dangerous materials in the course of their employment. A flagstone could come within the definition of ‘equipment’ for the purposes of the Act, and Mr Knowles was entitled to the damages he had been awarded.