The claimant was an electrician for the defendant. He used piles of steel plates to get across the factory floor as he could not use the walkways because he was afraid the wire there would kink, which would have led to machinery shorting. As the claimant was crossing the plates he stood on a piece of timber which he believed was secured under one of the steel plates. He tested it first to see if it would hold his weight and then used it to step over the gap. The timber was not secured and the claimant fell injuring his back.

The claimant’s case was that the defendants had failed under Regulation 4 of the Manual Handling Regulations 1992 and that they had condoned an unsafe work practice, failed to give adequate instruction on how to complete the task and failed to provide a safe system of work.

The defendant’s case was that the claimant was the “author of his own misfortune” and wholly responsible for the accident. They alleged that the claimant should have completed a permit to work that would have alerted him and the H&S officer to the risks and that he should have used duckboards to bridge the gap.

In his summing up the Judge held:
• that the defendants had not criticised the claimant for stepping over previous gaps, just this one that had resulted in his accident. Therefore it was an accepted practice. The defence witness evidence corroborated this.
• that the act of the claimant was to be seen in the context of an unsafe practice of work. He accepted that the claimant did not realise the size of the gap but that the defendant had created the hazard.
• that the defendant says the accident could have been avoided had the permit to work been completed but the evidence suggests this was an informal system. He was not satisfied that the claimant would have been advised to use duckboards had he completed a permit to work.
• that the allegations against the defendants were proved.
• claimant’s contributory negligence at 60 per cent.

Judgement for the claimant of £1600.

Lewis -v- Dyfed Steels Ltd