Tunneller trips over stop block

The claimant was spreading stone dust in a roadway tunnel, standing on a duct board between two rail tracks. Visibility was very poor due to the swirling stone dust and the claimant wearing the compulsory protective goggles. He tripped over a stop block which was about 12 inches high and fitted onto coal carts to stop them running away when in use.

The defendants argued the stop block had to be used to stop a train coming along a track onto tracks which had not yet been inspected, or a track that was blocked, and that it was not safe to lower the block. In addition, they argued, the claimant had walked and inspected the track to look for hazards before starting work and should have seen the stop blocks. He should also have stopped every time dust was in the air for it to clear before proceeding.

The defendant brought a mining expert who said the block could be a hazard but in his opinion it should always remain in the upright position unless lowered to allow a train to go past.

The claimant argued, and the Judge agreed, that the stop block being raised represented a hazard and it should have been made more apparent by the use of, for example, luminous paint. The Judge found 25 per cent contributory negligence saying he should have seen the block on his initial inspection.

George Jones -v- Skanska Construction UK Limited

Manual Handling: specific risk assessment required

The claimant was sliding a reel that weighed 160kg. It was stacked flat on top of another reel which made sliding it extremely difficult. Trying to move it, it slipped and caused injury to his right thumb. He argued it should have been stacked in a vertical position so as to roll it out using very little force. He said he had copied his method of lifting from his foreman who also regularly lifted a load.

It was argued there was no specific risk assessment or training for this task. Citing Hawkes -v- London Borough of Southwark (CA19/2/1998) which states a generic risk assessment is insufficient and only a specific risk assessment will suffice.

The trial Judge accepted that argument and the precedent of Hawkes. He found a breach of the manual handling regulations in the failure to risk assess and to stack the reel upright so it could be rolled.

He also accepted that a deduction for contrib’ should be minimal following Toole -v- Bolton MBC and found only 10 per cent contrib’ on the basis that the actions of management lifting the reels on their own influenced the claimant’s decision to get on with the job as best he could.

Burlinson -V- AEI Cables Limited

Hands in moving machinery part of working culture

There was a filter jam at Rothmans factory. The claimant tried to use the tweezers supplied but when that did not work put her hand in the moving machinery and it was trapped causing her injury. The defendants said that if the tweezers did not work employees were trained to switch the machine off and use their hand.

The claimant and witnesses gave evidence that there was pressure at work to minimise “down time“ as each time a machine was switched off 10 minutes were lost. Evidence was given that managers would investigate down time aggressively and keep charts on the wall monitoring it.

The Judge accepted this was an all or nothing case – either the defendant’s stated system took place and was safe or it did not and it was unsafe.

He found the claimants’ witnesses honest and credible and that the culture of work was to keep on working and, given that, he found for the claimant with no contributory negligence.

Flook -v- British American Tobacco, 18 January 2005, Newcastle CC, J Walton