It’s that time of year when there’s a lot of snow and ice on roads and pavements. What happens when employees slip, fall and hurt themselves at work?
Regulation 12 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations requires employers to ensure that the “surface of every traffic route in the workplace” is suitable for the purpose for which it is used and their surfaces are not slippery or have no substance on them that exposes employees to risk of slipping.
So if an employee slips on snow or ice, falls and hurts themselves as a result of a failure by the employer to grit, then they may have a compensation claim. But what about the employee who slips and injures themself while doing the gritting?
In Ann Farrant -v- Essex County Council, the claimant successfully sued her employer for negligence when she slipped on the ice she was gritting.
Mrs Farrant, a UNISON member, came to Thompsons after she fractured her wrist when she slipped on the ice she was gritting in a playground as part of her duties as a school caretaker.
Thompsons took proceedings against Essex County Council whose solicitors fought the case to court. Thompsons said that Essex CC should have carried out a risk assessment and provided Mrs Farrant with proper safety equipment under the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations. Indeed, the council had expected her to carry out her own risk assessment and she wore her own boots and Marigold gloves to do the job.
The Judge found in favour of Mrs Farrant. He said that, although it was a “common sense” task, the whole point of risk assessments was to train an employee in how to do the job safely and to provide them with safe equipment.
In this case, Mrs Farrant should have been trained to allow the ice to melt before she walked on it and should have been given proper non-slip boots.
Essex CC argued that, even if they were at fault, Mrs Farrant should take some of the blame for the accident for not paying attention to the area she had salted.
The Judge said she was clearly treading carefully on the salt and that she was in no way responsible for her accident (see page 4 for more details about contributory negligence).
In a case where a meter reader slipped on leaves, the Occupiers Liability Act 1957, which states that occupiers of land owe a duty of care to visitors, and the Workplace Regulations 1992 applied.
In Bond -v- Derbyshire County Council, the claimant was visiting an old people’s home (owned by the council) to read the meters. He had to go through a fire exit to an outside meter.
It was a windy and wet day and he slipped on leaves in the outside corridor and fell, fracturing his elbow.
Mr Bond, a UNISON member, was referred to Thompsons. Along with the Occupiers Liability Act, we said that the Workplace Regulations 1992 applied because the building was his workplace as, at the time, he was there to do a job.
The Workplace Regs require the employer to ensure, among other things, that workplace floors are safe.
Thompsons successfully argued, under the Occupiers Liability Act, that the defendant should have at least warned Mr Bond that there were likely to be wet leaves outside the door, even if it could not keep the area clear due to the wind.
The Judge agreed that the council should have foreseen that leaves would blow into the area and that a verbal warning should have been given, or the area checked before allowing Mr Bond to go through the door.
Derbyshire CC then argued that the Workplace Regulations did not apply as Mr Bond was not at his own workplace.
The Judge ruled that Regulation 2 of the regs applied to a working visitor to the premises and therefore that the council was in breach for the same reasons as above. The Judge found in Mr Bond’s favour and decided that he was in no way responsible for his accident.