28 March, 2019
The Claimant alleged that during the course of her employment as a teaching assistant at a special needs school she suffered a serious injury to her right knee whilst trying to retrieve a keyboard from the highest shelf in a storeroom.
The keyboard was required for a music lesson. The Claimant alleged that as she attempted to pull the keyboard down from the top shelf, she lost her grip of it, stumbled and fell. The Claimant argued that she was under pressure to collect the keyboard and contended that the storeroom was cluttered and congested meaning access was difficult and she was unable to get out of the way when the keyboard fell.
During the trial, the Claimant accepted that a special needs school requires a lot of equipment and that space is at a premium. Whilst it was clear from the photographs that the storeroom was full, there was no suggestion that there should not be shelving or that items had been stored inappropriately.
The Judge concluded that the accident was not caused by the Defendant's negligence. The Claimant decided to take a risk; she saw the flap of the box hanging down and pulled on it. The keyboard was not secure so it came down. She was rushing but she was not under pressure as it was not critical to have a keyboard in the class. It was not a risk that her employer expected her to take. The Judge therefore dismissed the claim.
The successful defence of this claim saved the local authority in excess of £50,000. The Judge was highly complementary of the school, describing the risk assessments and staff training as "excellent". The exemplary health and safety documentation provided by the school was key to the defence of this claim and the prompt and efficient post-incident investigation crucially preserved contemporaneous evidence as to the cause of the incident.