Burned knees

A mason/pavier was instructed to form a concrete driveway. He prepared the driveway and filled it in with concrete and then had to kneel on the concrete using a float to flatten it. He suffered from chemical burns to both knees. He had served his time as a ground worker trained on bitumen and tarmac and had only been working on mason jobs for about 10 months.

His employers had failed to assess and provide adequate protective equipment, particularly knee pads, since they were aware that lime in concrete could cause chemical burns. The case settled just before trial.

Sniggering in court

A paramedic was attending an RTA. The windscreen of the car was not removed in its entirely and there were sharp glass edges left. While administering treatment to the casualty, the claimant cut his arm on a piece of glass. The claim was brought against both the Fire Authority who had removed the windscreen and against the employers.

The Fire Authority called seven fire officers to give evidence, nearly all of whom were found by the Judge to be unimpressive. The Judge criticised their behaviour in court, in particular smirking, chattering and having a mocking and scornful attitude. He found their witness evidence to be of poor quality. The employers called evidence as to training and PPE available.

The Judge made findings of fact in accordance with the claimant’s version of events in particular that no specific warning was given to the claimant. The second defendants were also liable as they had taken no proactive or positive steps to enquire about protective equipment or garments when working with sharp objects or glass. There was no finding of contributory negligence and liability was apportioned between the defendants 75 per cent to the Fire Authority and 25 per cent to the employers.

Shoulder injury

The claimant was a glass cutter. He was placing a large piece of glass in a wooden rack when the glass hit a metal girder running across the top causing the glass to shatter and fall resulting in a deep laceration to the claimant’s right shoulder.

The defendants said it was the claimant’s fault as he was an experienced glass cutter and was well aware of the maximum size of glass for the rack and that this piece was too big. They said that he had received a verbal reprimand the day before the accident for attempting to place glass in excess of the maximum size into the rack. They also said that the claimant had been provided with industry standard cut-proof sleeves, and that shoulder protection was not available as it was not reasonably foreseeable that it was required.

The Judge found that the claimant did know the maximum size glass to be put into the rack, but found the defendants liable in respect of the position of the metal girder and the lack of better Kevlar arm protection. The defendants had not produced evidence on the issue of PPE being industry standard and what efforts they had made with the supplier before the accident. He found for the claimant and made no finding of contributory negligence.

Manual handling/R.S.I. claim fails

In one of our Scottish cases, the claimant’s work involved trussing wings and legs of chicken carcasses using elastic strings. She developed carpal tunnel syndrome in 1994 in her right wrist. From about 2000 she developed carpal tunnel syndrome in the left wrist which was aggravated by her work. She brought her claim in negligence and also for a breach of Regulation 4 of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations.

She abandoned the common law case but relied upon the Regulations. The court dismissed the case saying that the exacerbation of symptoms was caused not by the transporting or supporting of the load but by the manipulation of chicken carcasses while on the work bench. While that manipulation process was being carried out, the chicken carcass was not being conveyed anywhere.

Held: it would be straining the ordinary use of language to describe that manipulation as the transporting or supporting of a load, and contrary to common sense to describe all the activities as one operation of transporting or supporting of a load.