The claimant was working with a very large sleeper grab that could move 56 sleepers in one go. The workers would guide the grab in the last few inches with manual assistance with their hands on the gate and in close proximity. The defendants said that the claimant should have stood clear and there was no need or influencing effect if he attempted to guide it.

The defendants had admitted primary liability but alleged contributory negligence. They had offered 85 per cent of the value, which was rejected. The evidence coming from the defendants showed that there was a practice to stand close and guide the grab. The defendant’s witness accepted that there was assistance given by such action, and that no training or warning against such action was ever given.

The Judge found 100 per cent in favour of the claimant. The claimant had many matters to concentrate on and was undertaking the work in a method and by the standard as operated by the employers. His actions were mere inadvertence and not negligence.

Dodwell -v- Tarmac Limited. Nottingham County Court, 29 March 2007.

But some decisions make it right to be cautious

Contrast the above case with this one. The claimant stepped from the cage of a crane while it was still moving. His coat became caught on the cage door and his foot was crushed by the crane steps. His case was that it was common practice to release the control button on the crane and step off before the crane came to a complete stop. It was agreed that it took about 1.75 seconds for the crane to stop once the button was released.

The claimant said that he copied this practice from another colleague who normally operated the crane and that he had been provided with no practical training on the use of the crane. He simply had to read the safe working practices which did not refer to the hazard posed by stepping from the crane. The safe working practice was amended after the accident to list this as a hazard and something that should not be done.

It was accepted by the Judge that it was a common practice. However the Judge went onto to say that it was something that was not condoned by the employers. While the Judge found that there were breaches of Regulations 8 & 9 of PUWER, the claimant was also to blame in stepping from the moving crane and he reduced the claim by 50 per cent.

Lee -v- William Cook Defence Limited. Newcastle County Court, 10 April 2007