Staircases and hand rails



The claimant was descending a spiral stair case on the inside and she was walking with a colleague at her side. As she approached the narrowing section of the stairs she lost her footing and went to grab the hand rail but there was not one available. She fell down the remaining stairs.

The hand rail continued all the way down the outside of the stair case where the stairs were the normal width. There had been one previous accident on the stairs a few days before. After the claimant’s accident they made the stairs one way and told people to walk in single file.

The claim was successful on the basis of Regulation 12(5) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 in that a suitable and sufficient handrail should have been provided on the stairs, as the stairs were used by heavy traffic and were wide enough for two people to descend.

Held: 25 per cent contrib’ on the basis the claimant had used the stairs several times before and was talking at the time of descending the stairs so possibly not paying attention.

Johanna Mac Intosh -v- Department of Work and Pensions and Land Securities. DJ Griffiths, Manchester County Court, 26 January 2006.

Objects that can fall from a height

The claimant worked as a cook supervisor at a school. She was in a store room, standing on a ladder lifting boxes onto the top shelf of some racking. A fluorescent strip-light cover fell off and hit her on the head and shoulder.


The Judge held, on balance of probabilities, that she had dislodged the light cover causing it to fall on her head. The claimant pleaded strict liability under regulation 5 of the Work Place Regulations for equipment maintained in an inefficient state. This was pleaded because the light fitting had fallen when knocked and hence was unsafe: in this instance they were not safely clipped.

While the Judge accepted the light fittings were not safely secured he found no breach of regulation 5 of the Work Place Regulations as the lights worked perfectly well until they were struck. However the claimant also pleaded a breach of regulation 13 of the Work Place Regulation: “so far as is reasonably practicable suitable and effective measures shall be taken to prevent any person being struck by a falling object likely to cause personal injury”.

The Judge found there was a breach of this regulation. The defendant fitted the light cover in the store room where it was likely to be knocked due to employees putting items on shelving. They should have taken suitable measures to fit a more substantial light fitting.

Given evidence of the room dimensions there was a high likelihood of someone hitting the light cover.

They Judge found 1/3 contributory negligence against the claimant for striking the light cover.

Palmer -v- Hull City Council, Kingston upon Hull County Court, 25 January 2006, HHJJacks