The claimant was a crime scene investigator who attended the death of a drug user. She took photos. She picked up a shirt from a rucksack next to the dead person in an attempt to discover his identity. There was a needle in the pocket of the shirt. She was wearing blue latex gloves. The needle went through them and injured her.

The defendant said she had overridden express instructions by her senior that she should touch nothing. She had also over-reached all that was required in her job.

The Judge disagreed. He found the claimant thought it was part of her job to search belongings to ascertain the identity of the deceased and it was not proved there were any other procedures or written instructions to do otherwise. Furthermore there should have been anti-needlestick gloves provided for all scene examinations, as was the case after the incident.

The Judge found the claimant partly to blame as she knew the deceased was a drug user as there was a discarded needle at the scene and must have realised there was a danger. She also must have known that her gloves were inadequate to protect against that danger. She could have taken the view not to go further. The Judge awarded 33 per cent contributory negligence. Nottingham County Court.

Work at Height Regulations

The claimant climbed a ladder to repair a bulb at the top of a lamppost. He was on his own. He used a rope supplied by his employer to tie the ladder to the lamppost. The ladder slipped away and he fell. The defendant argued he had not secured a knot in the rope properly.

While the Judge accepted that was the cause of the injury, he found the shortcomings in the defendant’s system were so gross that there were clear breaches of various other regulations.

For example:

a) After the accident, a “Rojack” plate was attached to ladders to prevent them from slipping.
b) There was no risk assessment or relevant training for the use of ladders.
c) After the accident, two men did all such work on ladders.
d) The feet of the ladders were virtually bare of studs.
e) The ladder was stored outdoors. At the time of the accident the atmosphere was frosty and the rope was frozen and wet and potentially weaker.

The Judge found all this amounted to clear breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005: reg 6 and 7 and the 1998 PUWER regs 5, 8 and 9..

The Claimant was not found in any way to blame for the accident. The Judge accepted matters relating to training, maintenance of equipment, inspection and risk assessment were a matter for the defendant and not the claimant and as such the claimant could not have contributed to the failings of the defendant in that respect.

Newcastle upon Tyne CC.