The claimant fell, while working, on wet leaves in a cemetery. It was autumn. The defendant had not carried out a risk assessment nor had they a written system for dealing with the falling of leaves onto a traffic route within a workplace. The claimant’s foreman determined when the leaves needed to be cleared away and also a sweeper was used once a week.

The Judge found three facts relevant finding the “as and when” system met the test of reasonable practicability under the Workplace Regs 12(3).

  1. You cannot determine when the leaves will fall. 
  2. You cannot determine the extent of the fall. 
  3. You cannot determine where they will fall.

The Judge found a written-down system couldn’t accommodate easily to that situation. There are other priorities for the council.

The accident occurred on a Monday morning almost first thing and the council had determined other tasks as a priority rather than the leaves. The Judge could not find that the council did anything other than deal with the matter on a reasonably practicable basis in accordance with Regulation 12(3). Accordingly the claim was dismissed.

Keith Walker -v- Gateshead Council. 13 July 2006, Newcastle upon Tyne CC

Manual handling case

The claimant needed to clear the floor and lift six or seven bags of laundry surrounding her machine. Each bag weighed approximately 30lbs. In doing so she injured her lower back.

Breach of Regulation 4 of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 was pleaded. It was argued that the employers failed to avoid the need for the claimant to undertake manual handling operations, i.e. lifting bags of sheets from the floor, and could have been avoided this by the preceding shift removing the bags and putting them onto a trolley. The claimant had not been trained in manual handling techniques.

The Judge accepted her evidence and found liability for the claimant. The claimant was not blameworthy and so there was no finding of contributory negligence.