The claimant was a sheet metal worker and was working on a drill. As he began to move a piece of metal to drill a hole, a piece of drill swarf caught the middle finger of his right glove. As he removed the glove, he removed the tip of his finger.

The defendants denied liability. They also alleged that, if a finding of primary liability was given against them, the claimant’s own actions play a major part in the matter by way of contributory negligence of no less than 75 per cent.

The defendants alleged that the claimant caused or contributed to the accident for the following reasons:

  • Failing to clamp the metal in place and instead using his hands
    Wearing gloves when he should not have been doing so.

Witnesses for the defendant were the company’s managing director, the manager in charge of maintenance and the health and safety representative for the union.

The DJ found that the paperwork supplied at trial was amazingly slim and he would have imagined bundles of documents to have been supplied by the defendants. He felt that there was insufficient evidence to show that the defendants had taken health and safety into consideration and they had complied with the necessary regulations.

While he accepted that the claimant was a very experienced sheet metal worker, he felt that the defendants had failed to provide him with training and simply took his word that he was a competent worker.

The claimant admitted that he had failed to clamp the metal and also advised that he was wearing gloves. He was adamant that he thought it was the correct procedure to wear the gloves and had never been told otherwise. He also advised that he thought he would be “told off” for wasting time for clamping the job.

The defendant’s witnesses also admitted that there are other employees who fail to clamp down jobs and also wear gloves. There was no standardisation in practice, which would have been the case if sufficient training was given.

The DJ found the defendants wholly at fault for the accident. While he felt that the claimant may have contributed, this would have been prevented had he received correct training and therefore he could not have been held at fault. This is in line with our recent training on the point.

He also found the lack of a guard a breach which could have been picked up on risk assessment. He rejected the Defendant’s argument it was impractical to put a guard on.

Newcastle upon Tyne CC, 11 December 2007.