Watch out for safety hazards caused by outside contractors

30 November 2012
Watch out for safety hazards caused by outside contractors

Measures to prevent accidents on your premises are your responsibility, even when a non-employee such as a DJ is at fault, says Peter Forshaw

The problem We regularly recommend a DJ to guests holding events at our hotel. Last weekend a wedding guest tripped over some loose wires from the DJ's equipment and broke their arm. Was it our responsibility to ensure the equipment was secure or, as the DJ is not an employee of ours, is he the one who is accountable?

The law Hotel owners, like other occupiers, have a duty to ensure that they take reasonable care to ensure that their visitors and guests are reasonably safe in using the premises for the purpose for which they have been invited. Consequently, guests are entitled to rely on the hotel having suitable health and safety measures in place to avoid or minimise the risk of them tripping over.

The law also takes into account the care or lack of care to be expected of visitors in assessing whether and how the hotel's duty extends to dealing with a particular risk.
Where the tripping or other hazard has been created by an independent contractor's actions in setting up the equipment, then the hotel might not be automatically liable if it has taken steps to satisfy itself that the contractor was competent and that the work had been properly done. This will particularly be the case where the contractor has been engaged directly by a third party.

Expert advice

It remains in the hotel's interests to ensure that the room, and equipment in it, are set up safely, and remain safe, particularly in relation to obvious risks such as trailing wires. The hotel should, therefore, ensure that a risk assessment is carried out for such functions, identifying the possible safety risks and what measures have been put in place to minimise them.

The risk assessment should identify the need for contractors to have insurance and to provide their own risk assessment/safety measures for their particular activity.
Further, the hotel management should satisfy themselves on set-up that the disco area is safe and request of the DJ any changes they see fit. Throughout the night, staff should also remain vigilant to ensure that the function room remains safe. All of these activities should be documented and the documents retained for a period of three years, in case civil litigation might ensue.

In respect of any claim for compensation pursued against the hotel by one of its guests, the hotel should ultimately be able to pass any such liability over to the DJ's public liability insurers and receive a contribution or full indemnity from them, if the hotel can show that the DJ caused the wires to be loose or poorly set-up and the danger related to circumstances within the DJ's control.

In this regard, the hotel might want to consider enteing into a contract with the regular DJ concerned, with appropriate terms to require the DJ to indemnify the hotel in the event that an accident like this should occur due to the DJ's negligence.

Check list â- Risk assess the event before it takes place.
â- Satisfy yourself before the event starts that the areas being used by guests are safe, and arrange for any hazards to be removed.
â- Train staff to inspect the venue throughout the function and report any hazards to the DJ and management.
â- Document the inspections carried out.
â- Ensure the DJ is reputable. Try to recommend the same one each time.
â- Ensure that the DJ has appropriate public liability insurance before recommending them, and request sight of the policy.
â- Stipulate to the organiser when the DJ must arrive and set up, and liaise with both on arrival to ensure the area is set up in time and safely.
â- Require the DJ to confirm the safety of the equipment he or she has installed.

Beware! The greater the degree of control which the hotel asserts over the DJ, the greater the risk that the hotel will be required to share the consequences of any dangers created by the DJ.

If the DJ does not have insurance, the hotel is likely to be the main target for any claimant. It is, therefore, in the hotel's interest to ensure that the DJ has the requisite insurance.

Peter Forshaw is a partner and head of the leisure unit at law firm Weightmans

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