The Supreme Court has ruled that a company was liable for injuries sustained by an employee who slipped and fell on an icy path.
The company was at fault because it had not provided her with protective clothing.
The case involved a care worker who had to visit the homes of elderly clients as part of her work. She slipped while visiting one of her clients during a cold spell and sustained substantial injuries.
During legal proceedings it emerged that the company had previously carried out a risk assessment, which considered the risk of employees slipping and falling in bad weather as “tolerable”.
The assessment did not consider the possible provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as non-slip attachments for footwear. The company gave its employees a hazard awareness booklet and advised them to wear safe, adequate footwear in bad weather.
The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which held that the company had exposed the employee to a risk to her health and safety while she was at work.
The risk was obvious and was within the company’s knowledge. It was true to say that the risk could not be avoided, but it could be managed in accordance with general principles laid down in Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
A proper risk assessment would have considered the possibility of providing PPE to reduce the risk of home carers slipping on snow and ice. A number of devices were available which would have been suitable. Since none were provided, it followed that there was a breach of health and safety regulations.
The court added that an employer’s duty was no longer confined to taking such precautions as were commonly taken, or such other precautions as were “so obviously wanted that it would be folly in anyone to neglect to provide them”.
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