Duty to warn in construction
There is no general duty to warn in English law however, there are circumstances in which such a duty can exist.
In Cleightonhills v Bembridge Marine (2012) , Mr Justice Akenhead stated that “In my view, there can be little doubt that a failure to warn in the case of potential danger to human beings may give rise to a breach of any duty of care owed to a third party by a party who knows of the danger. I use the word "may" because it is necessary always to review all the circumstances and there might be circumstances which justify not warning. Where the parties are in contract, the duty to warn may extend to dangers of which the party in question should have been aware by reason of its involvement.”
Where there is a danger to health and safety, it may not be enough to simply warn of the danger, it may be necessary to do so vigorously, or to refuse to proceed with the works. In Plant Construction plc v Clive Adams Associates and JHM Construction Services Ltd, JMH did warn of problems but were found to be in breach anyway because they had not protested enough.
In addition, there may be a limited express duty to point out discrepancies in the contract documents.
These duties are fairly restricted; it must be reasonable to impose a duty to warn in the circumstances. However, it is an evolving area of law, and it is possible in the future that the courts could extend the duty to warn to broader commercial issues, rather than just where there is a potential danger.
NB on NEC contracts both parties must give early warning of anything that may delay the works, or increase costs. They should then hold an early warning meeting to discuss how to avoid or mitigate impacts on the project. In the case of a compensation event, if the contractor fails to give early warning of a possible delay to the works, or increase in costs, they will only be compensated for effects that would have remained anyway even if they had given early warning.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Brown v KMR Services Ltd.
- Compensation event.
- Duty of care.
- Early warning notice.
- Good faith.
- Independent Broadcasting Authority v EMI Electronics Limited and BICC Construction Ltd.
- Plant Construction plc v Clive Adams Associates and JHM Construction Services Ltd.
- Reasonable skill and care
- Sidaway v Governors of Bethlem Royal Hospital.
 External references.
Featured articles and news
It was the tallest structure in the world for 3,800 years, but to this day the exact construction techniques are a mystery.
Shortlist for the industry's most coveted award announced.
Government responds to Mark Farmer's review of industry, rejecting the call for a levy on clients.
Peter Hansford to examine what wider lessons can be learned from the fire.
Every project is subject to uncertainty. How can construction better understand uncertainty for performance improvement?
MAD Architects reveal their designs for a futuristic campus for electric car manufacturer.
Homebuyers could borrow more with better forecasting of energy bills, according to industry consortium's new report.
Read our introductory article on carbon capture and storage.
Have a look at Frank Gehry's Binoculars Building in Los Angeles.
BRE publish new Loss Prevention Standard seeking to minimise fire risk from ducting.
How do we tell which infrastructure projects will work?
CIAT announce the establishment of a Working Group in light of Grenfell and call for contributions.
In 1900, 15% of global population lived in cities. Now it’s over 50%. Which is why we need ‘hydroinformatics’ to consume smarter.
Have a look at these competition-winning designs for a new residential development in Eindhoven.