Personal Protective Equipment

The claimant said he fell down stairs at London Underground due to his safety work boots suddenly tearing at the heel.

The defendant alleged the accident was entirely invented and that the claimant had torn the boots afterwards.

They asked the court for permission for a joint footwear technology expert. That report concluded the tear was due to a fault in the manufacturing process.

There was in effect no defence under that legislation to the expert’s view that there was a manufacturing fault as that legislation fixes an employer with liability for a supplier’s fault, even if the accident is unforeseeable to the employer.

We won that argument and also on Personal Protective Equipment legislation on the grounds if it was not fit to wear on stairs then it was not suitable anywhere for protection.

Central London County Court, 7-8 July 2007.

Assault case

The claimant was a nursing assistant who worked in a psychiatric unit at a general hospital. She responded to 2 affray alarms in a neighbouring ward as part of her duties. The alarms involved the assailant. After each incident she played cards with the assailant. On the second occasion she was punched hard in the face.

  • The Judge accepted that:
    The defendant had regularly and adequately assessed the risk of the assailant.
    That they could not be criticised for not moving the assailant to an isolation ward. The balance of evidence indicated that the risk could be managed and subsequent events such as a different drug regime, which had stabilised his condition, showed this was the case.
    Nor would the Judge criticise the staffing levels.

However the Judge found for the claimant. He found that, while the risk assessments were accurate and thorough (they ran to hundreds of pages), there was no information that an occasional visitor to the ward could be expected to assimilate.

  • The claimant was there in her capacity to cover staff responding to an alarm. She could not be expected to know:
    There had been 49 violent incidents over the previous 26 days involving this man.
    He was less at ease with unfamiliar staff.

There was no adequate system of telling affray assistors about particular patients. If the claimant had known of the extent and particulars of the risk involved, she would not have played cards in close vicinity of the assailant. This conclusion was supported by the evidence that none of the assailant’s regular caring nurses would have got as close to him as the claimant did on the day of suffering her assault.

The defendants had failed in their duty to put information to employees in an understandable and communicable form. Judgment for the claimant.

6 July 2007, Manchester CC