The client worked as a groundsman at a school. He used a seated mower to cut the grass.

While using the mower, the blades became jammed. The claimant shut down the machine and went to remove the grass from the blades by hand. While pulling the grass free from the blades, the blades turned and the claimant’s fingers came into contact with them, causing loss of the little finger and shortening of the ring finger.

The Claimant relied on PUWER and the relevant directive and Regulation 11 particularly with reference to guarding.

The defendant’s case was that PUWER 11(2) did not impose a strict obligation to guard but one of practicability and that it would be impracticable to provide guarding completely enclosing the blades and still maintain them. To provide a push stick for jammed blades was a practicable alternative.

The claimant said that, while PUWER 11(2) did not use strict liability language, its enabling directive did so. The legislation had replaced the strict terms of s14 of the Factories Act, where the duty was absolute ,even if the effect of complying with the statute rendered the equipment inoperable. It was settled law that no replacement legislation from the Directives should lower existing levels of safety in a nation’s law.

The Judge agreed with this line of argument and found:
a) the mower was liable to become jammed when cutting long wet grass , so was inappropriate for that task and
b) it should have been constructed so as to prevent contact with the cutting point while the moving blade was in motion.

The claimant won with a deduction of 15% for contributory negligence.
Ward -v- Hull CC. 29 June 2006, Kingston upon Hull CC