Workplace Safety for Non-Employees: Serbian Court Approach to Question of Liability and Protective Measures


Workplace safety is a paramount concern, not only for employees but also for individuals working in hazardous environments without formal employment relationships. A recent Judgment of the Court of Appeal in Belgrade sheds light on the responsibility of contractors and employers towards non-employees engaged in risky activities.

In this article, we will explore the implications of the judgment, emphasizing the importance of ensuring workplace safety for all, regardless of employment status.

The Judgment of the Court of Appeal in Belgrade, Gž1. 779/2011(1) – A Case of Actual Work Without Employment Contract: In a significant case dated October 11, 2012, the Court of Appeal in Belgrade, Gž1. 779/2011(1), addressed a situation where the plaintiff had not established a formal employment relationship with the defendant through a signed employment contract or any other agreement. However, the plaintiff was found to have performed actual work for the defendant, specifically engaging in construction activities – a hazardous undertaking.

Understanding Liability

The Contractor’s Responsibility for Workplace Safety: Despite the absence of a formal employment contract, the Court ruled that the defendant, being the contractor responsible for the construction site, held liability for any damages suffered by the plaintiff during the course of performing work. This crucial ruling highlight that contractors have a duty of care towards individuals working on their premises, irrespective of their employment status.

Relevance of Law on Obligations – Articles 173 and 174 in Focus

The Court’s decision was founded on the application of Articles 173 and 174 of the Law on Obligations. These articles emphasize the responsibility of employers or contractors to provide a safe working environment and necessary protective equipment to individuals engaged in hazardous activities. In this case, the defendant’s failure to supply protective gear or adequately supervise the work resulted in the plaintiff’s injury, thereby establishing the contractor’s liability.

Challenging the Appellant’s Arguments

The Court dismissed the appellant’s defense, where they contended that the plaintiff, being an experienced worker, should have been aware of the required protective equipment and was at fault for not requesting it. The ruling emphasized that regardless of the plaintiff’s experience, it was the contractor’s responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all individuals involved in the construction work.

Implications for Workplace Safety

This landmark judgment holds significant implications for workplace safety, particularly concerning non-employees engaged in hazardous activities. It underscores the importance of contractors and employers providing appropriate protective measures, training, and supervision, even if individuals do not have formal employment contracts.

The Judgment of the Court of Appeal in Belgrade serves as a crucial reminder that workplace safety is a shared responsibility, extending beyond formal employment relationships. Employers and contractors have an obligation to safeguard the well-being of all individuals engaged in risky activities. By ensuring comprehensive safety measures, we can create a secure work environment for everyone, promoting a culture of safety and responsible practices in the workplace.

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