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R v. Mara


“Undertaking”, Employer's liability, use of company equipment


Court of Appeal (Civil Division) 

Act, Regulation or Reference:

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, ss. 2(1), 3(1)

Date: 1986


J Mara had a contract to clean a store, weekly Monday to Friday  between 0730 and 0900 and, [by agreement], electrical cleaning machines left at the store by the company could be used by employees of the store at other times.
On a Saturday afternoon, an employee of the store used one of those machines and because it had a damaged cable, the employee received an electric shock which killed him. Mr. Mara, a director of the company, was charged and convicted of failing to discharge an employer's duty, under section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, by consenting to, or conniving at, a breach by the company as employer to conduct the company's undertaking in such a way as to ensure that persons not in the company's employment were not thereby exposed to risks to their health and safety.
Mr. Mara appealed against conviction on the ground that the company did not conduct business at the store on Saturdays.

The Decision

The Court dismissed the appeal holding that for the purposes of section 3(1) of the Act of 1974 the conduct of the company's undertaking was not confined to the hours when the company's employees were actually in the building carrying out the services of cleaning the store, but also included the manner in which the company left their machines in the store and permitted the store's employees to use them. Accordingly there had been a breach of section 3(1) and the appellant had been properly convicted of consenting to or conniving at that breach.


Aitchison v. Howard Doris Ltd. [1979]

Carmichael v. Rosehall Engineering Works Ltd. [1984]

R v. Swan. Hunter Shipbuilders Ltd. [1981]