Iuris successfully brought forward a claim for a subsidiary legislation to be declared ultra vires since it went beyond the powers given by the main legislation. The law under review was a 2004 Legal Notice which exceeded the powers given to the Minister in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act 2000 in that it provided that the term “client” means any natural or legal person for whom a project is carried out and listed such client’s legal duties and responsibilities.
Merits of the case
Dr. Peter Fenech argued that this Legal Notice goes beyond the principles and powers found in the main legislation by virtue of which this Legal Notice was published. More precisely, in placing responsibility on owners of sites where works are carried out, the said Legal Notice went beyond its remit allowed under the main legislation given that such main legislation excludes from the definition of employer, the owner, occupier or possessor of such a site.
The plaintiff in this case had acquired immoveable property in St. Paul’s Bay in order to make improvements on it and subsequently sell it. During such works the property collapsed and two people were killed. Though the plaintiff was not on site when this occurred the Executive Police brought him to trial before the Court of Magistrates.
The Court opined that it is these considerations that give an indication of the aim of the law and the background within which they need to be read and understood. It considered the fact that owners, occupiers and possessors were excluded from the definition of employer and includes them as such and holds them responsible only if they provide tools, materials and equipment. Besides this, the said responsibility arises only because of defects or shortcomings in the equipment provided by the owners of the site and who would have known or could have known about these shortcomings. The Court said that when one studies the measures of the law it is clear that the legislator was focusing on the employer and not on the owner.
The Court decided that the legal notice went beyond the powers afforded by the main Act when it included owners under the definition of clients when construction works are being carried out and where there are dispositions that put responsibility on the owners of the sites. It also decided that all references to the principle of responsibility are null and without effect when referring to owners of sites where works are being carried out.