McDermid v Nash Dredging and Reclamation Co Ltd: HL 2 Jul 1986

The Court explained the duty of an employer towards his employees as regards their safety: ‘an employer owes to his employee a duty to exercise reasonable care to ensure that the system of work provided for him is a safe one. Secondly, a provision of a safe system of work has two aspects: (a) the devising of such a system and (b) the operation of it. Thirdly, the duty concerned has been described alternatively as either personal or non-delegable. The meaning of these expressions is not self-evident and needs explaining. The essential characteristic of the duty is that if it is not performed it is no defence for the employer to show that he delegated his performance to a person, whether his servant or not his servant, whom he reasonably believed to be competent to perform it. Despite such delegation the employer is liable for the non-performance of the duty.’


Lord Brandon


[1986] 3 WLR 45, [1986] 2 All ER 676 CA, [1986] QB 965, [1986] UKHL 5




England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedWilsher v Essex Area Health Authority CA 1986
A prematurely-born baby was the subject of certain medical procedures, in the course of which a breach of duty occurred. to ensure that the correct amount was administered it was necessary to insert a catheter into an umbilical artery so that his . .
CitedMullaney v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police CA 15-May-2001
The claimant police officer was severely injured making an arrest. He claimed damages from the respondent for contributory negligence of other officers in failing to come to his assistance.
Held: If a police officer owes a duty of care to . .
CitedWoodland v Essex County Council SC 23-Oct-2013
The claimant had been seriously injured in an accident during a swimming lesson. She sought to claim against the local authority, and now appealed against a finding that it was not responsible, having contracted out the provision of swimming . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Employment, Health and Safety

Updated: 07 June 2022; Ref: scu.182973