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  • Writer's pictureRobert Spicer

New Health And Safety Cases


Duty of care

Case Morcom v Biddick [2014] EWCA Civ 182

Facts M, a professional handyman, an acquaintance of B, agreed to fit insulation to B’s loft hatch. B was aware that there was a risk of the hatch opening under M’s weight or because of the vibration of M’s drill. B agreed to ensure that the hatch stayed shut, using a pole to hold it in the locked position. The hatch came open while B went to answer the telephone and M fell through it, suffering serious injuries. He claimed compensation in negligence from B. At first instance, the judge found that the hatch had opened because the latch had worked itself loose. This would not have happened if B had not abandoned his post. In agreeing to hold the latch, B had assumed a duty to M and in moving away he had breached that duty. M was 2/3rds contributorily negligent because he was working on the side of the hatch where he was most vulnerable to fall. M appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Decision 1. The appeal was dismissed.

2. B had taken the decision to involve himself and had therefore assumed responsibility with reasonably foreseeable consequences if he neglected his task.


Personal protective equipment

Case McPake v SRCL Ltd [2013] CSOH 157, Scottish Outer House

Statute reference Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, reg.4

Facts M was employed by S, a clinical waste management company, as a driver. In August 2011 he was decanting a loose waste bag from a nearly empty bin to a fuller bin when a needle stuck in his thigh. He claimed compensation for a breach of regulation 4 of the PPE Regulations. On his behalf it was argued that his protective trousers had not protected his thigh. For the employer it was argued that M should not have been handling loose waste, that the accident had been his own fault and that he had been acting beyond his instructions and training. M claimed that he had been trained to decant loose waste.

Decision 1. M’s actions had been carried out in the course of his employment. They had been for S’s benefit.

2. M had been exposed to a risk at work such that the 1992 Regulations were engaged.

3. There was an added risk in decanting loose waste bags as they had to be raised higher than mid-thigh level to be removed from the bins, which came up to chest height, to be placed in another bin.

4. The other means of protection relied upon by S were not equally or more effective in the absence of a clear system for dealing with nearly empty bins. S should have prohibited drivers from decanting and instructed them either to leave nearly empty bins or to uplift such bins.

5. If S had carried out a risk assessment in terms of Regulation 6 of the 1992 Regulations, it would have recognised that when waste bags were being decanted there was an additional risk of needle stick injuries which had not been prevented, controlled or avoided by the standard issue needle proof trousers and the instructions to carry bags by the neck and away from the body.

6. M had been trained to decant from nearly empty bins and in any event he was not prohibited from doing so. It was a reasonable thing for him to do and there was no fault on his part in doing so.

7. Compensation of £3500 was awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity.

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