The claimant was instructed to remove rubbish bags from the back of one vehicle into another vehicle for disposal. The vehicle in question was eight feet high and was full with bags of rubbish.

The claimant was pulling bags of rubbish down from the top first, as high as he could reach being the bottom of the top line of bags, onto the flat of the vehicle for moving.

Suddenly and without warning a badger fell out of a rubbish sack from somewhere towards the top of the vehicle and onto the claimant, who was unaware whether the animal was alive or dead. The animal struck the claimant in the face, he pushed it away and fell backwards, suffering injury.

The claimant’s primary argument was that the system of work requiring employees to empty these bags from above head height was inherently unsafe. There was no way of knowing what was in the bags and whether the stack of rubbish in the vehicle was structurally sound.

The defendant’s case was that the system of work was safe and that there was nothing reasonably practicable they could have done. They argued that the accident was not reasonably foreseeable.

In his judgment, the Judge said that he had come to the conclusion that the system was inherently unsafe and that it was only to be expected that bags from the top could be dislodged and fall and this was precisely what happened on this occasion. The Judge said he believed this had been an accident waiting to happen.

The Judge made no findings of contributory negligence.

Carroll -v- Brentwood B/C. 7 September 2006

Work equipment and stability

Mr P, a general worker for the council, twisted his knee while helping a ganger unload traffic lights from a trailer.

He had done the job on maybe 50 occasions in his long time with the council. He saw that the traffic lights were the new battery kind, which he had no experience of loading / unloading.

The claimant copied the ganger. At no time did the ganger give him any instructions about this or any warnings.

The lights seemed to tip when being loaded from a trailer on to a ramp. This was because the trailer was not properly fixed. He took evasive action and was injured.

The Judge found that there was a breach of statutory duty (breach of Reg 20 re stability of trailer). It was not sufficiently stabilised for someone in the position of the claimant – this is an unqualified duty and was not discharged on the facts.

The Judge commented:
“Is it not necessary, when one finds the trailer unstable, to find exactly what had happened but in all likelihood the legs of the trailer weren’t stabilised.”

The Judge also found there was a breach of both Regs 8&9 PUWER re training and information given to both claimant and the ganger, in terms of loading / unloading a trailer; there was a failure to instruct them how to unload a heavy load in the absence of the trailer being unattached to the van, where to stand in relation to the ramp and to ensure the legs are adequately in position.

The Judge also found there was a breach of Reg 3 re the legs of the trailer not being stabilised and the trailer being unattached to a vehicle.

The defendants pleaded contributory negligence. The Judge did not accept this and said once the emergency situation had arisen it was not right to criticise the claimant for suffering an injury as he got out of the way.

Pendleton -v- Derby CC ,Lincoln CC, 7 September 2006