Frequency of inspections and falsified disclosure

The claimant was walking across a grass verge at the school where she worked when she stepped on a manhole cover and it pivoted and she fell down, sustaining injury.

Breaches of Regulations 5 and 12 of the Workplace Regs and failure to ensure visitors were safe under the Occupiers’ Liability Act were alleged.

The council denied liability on the basis that it had a reasonable system of inspection been in place and they could have done no more to detect that the cover was not sat in its proper place. The only explanation the council could put forward was that a grass cutting machine must have dislodged it as it was too heavy to be dislodged by foot. There would have been two grass cutting operations in the month prior to the accident.
The Judge found that, although the council had a system of inspection in place (monthly and daily), it was not being followed at the time of the claimant’s accident.

The date on the record of inspection, which apparently took place a few days before the claimant’s accident, looked as if it had been amended from the month before to just before the client’s accident. The council turned up at court with the “original” inspection document from which it was clear that it was a photocopy. The ticks on the document exactly mirrored those from the inspection the month before. Despite pointing this out to the council, they chose to run this defence.

Further, the council failed to provide witness evidence from the caretaker who apparently did the daily inspections so the Judge had no way of assessing what may or may not have happened in the way of inspection on the day of the accident. At trial, the Judge found that the council were in breach of Regulation 5 in failing to ensure the ground was in “an efficient state, in efficient working order” and also that there was a breach of the Occupiers’ Liability Act.

Forster -v- Durham CC. 12 January 2007, Middlesborough CC