Who is responsible in South Africa when a contractor or their employee is injured on the employer's premises?


Responsibility for contractor or their employee injured on duty

When an injury occurs and it involves the employees of independent contractors, the client may think that the responsibility of the medical expenses in treating that employee along with any lost wages would be that of his employer, not the client who contracted them for the work. However, in numerous cases, the court may find that the responsibility lay with the client.

The aspect relating to who is responsible in South Africa when contractors or their employees are injured on the employer’s premises is therefore a crucial topic. There are a few factors which need to be discovered, in which the answer can be identified.


Gross Negligence and Contractor Safety

There is a vast number of instances when either independent contractors, or someone working for them, is injured on business premises of the client, and it is unclear who the legally responsible party is.

An exception can, however, be made where gross negligence is concerned and it resulted in, or contributed, to the injury. For instance, the client hires somebody to conduct repairs to the roof of a building and the client fails to inform them of structural weaknesses in the roof.

Should a worker walk along the roof and it collapses, the court is likely to find that the client’s failure to inform them of the structural weakness is grossly negligent. This can result in the client being held liable for the injuries of the worker.

Specific circumstances must be taken into consideration, the injured worker could be awarded punitive damages which is an amount exceeding medical expenses, unemployment reimbursement, along with pain and suffering, rewarded as a form of punishment to the client.


Independent Contractors

Should the client hire someone to perform work at the place of business such as trimming a tree, for instance, and they are in possession of a valid contractor’s license, the contractors may be considered legally responsible for injuries sustained by their workers.

It is therefore crucial that clients, when hiring someone, determine whether they have a valid and current contractors license. Should they merely claim that they have a license, and there is no proof of such, the client will not be absolved from responsibility.


Insurance of the Independent Contractor

Should the independent contractors have a valid and current contractor's license, the client may still be held liable for injuries to the them or someone that they employ, should the contractors not have insurance which covers bodily injuries as well as workers’ compensation for wages which may be lost as result of injuries or illness that led to disablement.

To ensure that the client is completely protected, the client must ensure that they have the necessary insurance which would also cover property damage as well as bodily injury which may be caused by the contractors and their workers.


Direction of Court Decisions

Court decision may further complicate the responsibility for injured workers hired by independent contractors. There have been cases where courts considered an injured worker’s claim despite the measures that the client had in place.

It is imperative for the client to ensure that the necessary documents are in place before they appoint independent contractors and before work is commenced.


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Posted date: 7th Mar 2021