P a g e
Giving judgment, the court held: "If a fellow workman by his habitual conduct is likely to
prove a source of danger to his fellow employees, a duty lies fairly and squarely on the
employers to remove the source of danger."
One of the reasons the employer was held to be liable in this case was that they knew -
or ought reasonably to have known - such incidents were happening regularly in the
workplace, especially when there was evidence of several previous warnings to the
rogue employee about his unacceptable behaviour over four years.
Knowles v Liverpool County Council  – Employer’s Liability (Defective
Equipment) Act 1969 extends to materials used at work
Knowles v Liverpool County Council (1993)
This case provides a definition for what constitutes "equipment" in the workplace, and
extends the Employers' Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1969 to cover materials
used at work.
The case ended up in the House of Lords, where the law lords held that equipment
covered every article of whatsoever kind furnished by the employer for the purposes of
its business. In this case, the Lords held that even a flagstone was a piece of equipment.
Mr Knowles was repairing a pavement for Liverpool County Council. One of the
flagstones he was handling was "green" (uncured) as a result of a defect in the
manufacturing process. This faulty flagstone broke during handling, causing injury to
Knowles' finger. Liverpool County Council was held liable for his injury.
The House of Lords had to consider whether the flagstone was equipment under the
scope of the Employers' Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1969.
Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle stated: "The facts are simple. The respondent (Knowles)
was employed by the appellants (Liverpool County Council) as a labourer flagger
repairing a pavement in a Liverpool street. While he was manhandling a flagstone into
the shovel of a JCB, the corner of the flagstone broke off, causing the stone to drop with
consequent injury to the respondent's finger. The breakage occurred because the
manufacturers - who were not the appellants - had failed to cure it properly. This defect
could not reasonably have been discovered before the accident."
He continued: "the equipment - i.e. the flagstone - had been provided for the purposes of
the employer's business, and not merely for the use of the employee. Thus a piece of
defective equipment which causes injury to a workman would fall within the ambit of
the subsection [of the Act]."
He concluded that "In this case, the flagstone had undoubtedly been provided by the
appellants for the purposes of their business of repairing and relaying the pavement.
In my view, the only reasonable conclusion is that Parliament intended the Act to
provide a remedy in the situations where an employer had provided, for the purposes of
his business, an article which was defective and caused injury to a workman, but where
the employer was not in breach of a common law duty of care owed to that workman."