Inspections before mowing

The claimant was mowing a grass verge with a colleague when a small piece of wheel trim caught in a mower’s blades and flew out and scarred his skin. We could not show any breach of PUWER or PPE Regulations, as there was no defect in the mower or evidence that PPE would have made any difference.

However, the case was won on the basis that the inspections prior to mowing were not reasonable in the circumstances.

The Judge agreed that driving alongside the area was not a reasonable inspection for grass that was approximately six inches high, nor was it enough to keep an eye out while mowing the verge.

The risk assessment showed there was a risk of objects projecting and injuring someone. A visual inspection of the grass should have been made before mowing.

Chelmsford County Court, 31 January 2008.

Highways Act

The hole truth

The claimant stepped from the pavement into a pothole in the road that she had not seen.

Her husband took photos two days after the accident and measured the depth of the hole at 37mm. The defendant measured it at 30 mm a few months after the accident. Their written policy said their intervention level to repair potholes was at a depth of 40 mm.

However, they also had a policy to repair any pothole more than 300mm in length. This pothole was 600mm long. The defendant argued the only relevant factor here was the depth but the Judge rejected this and found the defect was significant. He said the defendant’s guideline on depth should not in any event be applied so rigorously.

So, the defendant had failed in their Section 41 duty under the Highways Act and the defect was significant.

The next issue was whether the defendant made out a Section 58 defence by virtue of their inspection. They had inspected at least once in the three months preceding the accident. However, the Judge found their system of one person driving at 15 miles per hour and looking for potholes was inadequate.

He said that a safer system would be either walking or driving more slowly or that there should be two inspectors in the car at the same time. This upheld the case of Davey -v- Suffolk County Council in which driven inspections at this sort of speed by one inspector was held to be inadequate. That was a country road and this held even stronger in an urban area.

The Judge awarded 50 per cent contributory negligence as the hole was large and visible and there were two other drop-kerbs in the vicinity the claimant could have used.
Nottingham County Court, 30 January 2008.