A smooth vinyl hard floor surface had been put down about six weeks before this accident at a hospital.

The claimant was sitting on a chair with hard castors. She leaned forward to reach for a paperclip from her desk and left the seat of her chair momentarily to do so.

It was alleged that, because the chair and the floor did not interact safely, this simple motion caused the chair to move backwards without her being aware of it and then when she went to sit back down she fell heavily backwards onto the floor.

We cited British Standard EN1335-2: 2000 Office furniture – office UK chair. 
This states there are two types of castor wheels. One is rigid, ie with hard tread where the wheel is one uniform colour. These are suitable for carpeted floors.

The other has resilient tyred wheels with a soft tread that has a clearly different colour to the centre of the wheel. These are suitable for hard stone, wooden or tiled floors or non-textiled coverings. That should have been used here but the other less suitable chair was used.

The British Standard states that a test of rolling resistance should be carried out when each chair is installed and each chair should have information about the choice of castors in relation to the floor surface.

The defendant accepts in his evidence that they had not carried out any risk assessment in relation to suitability of the chair for the floor surface.

The Judge ruled they were in breach of Regulation 11(3) of the Workplace Regulations in failing to provide a suitable chair and in relation to the failure to undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and that had been causative of the accident.

There was no contributory negligence against the claimant.

Great Grimsby County Court, 18 January 2010