Claimant author of his own misfortune when he fell on the roof of a transit van

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19 January, 2022

ML fell from the roof of a transit van in the course of his employment. He was strapping vinyl flooring onto the roof rack, as this was too large to fit inside the van. He accessed the roof via the fixed ladder on the back of the van contrary to instructions. As he stepped back he tripped over the beam of the roof rack and fell. Luckily for him he did not fall from the roof and was not severely injured, merely suffering a soft tissue injury to his thumb.

The pleaded claim included that he was not provided with any steps to allow him safe access to the van roof, and he claimed breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 as well as failure to provide suitable work equipment in breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and to have a safe system of work in breach of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. There were also allegations that there had been no suitable risk assessment or training. However, as the judge stated in his judgment, the case boiled down to whether he had been provided with stepladders, and whether he had been adequately trained. It was a question of common law negligence.

The defendant denied that there were no steps, the depot he was working at had them readily available and stated that he had been trained in relation to working at height, which included using a step ladder to access the roof to secure the load from the side of the van. The defence was a simple one, namely that the claimant himself had planned and carried out the task in question in a reckless and unsafe manner despite adequate training and that he was therefore the author of his own misfortune.

Our investigations provided us with statements to support the availability of stepladders and the training the claimant had undertaken, and therefore that he had been trained to secure the load to the van roof from the side using step ladders, and that he should never climb onto the roof itself. This included training by an external provider that had provided a comprehensive list of do's and don'ts.

The judge found it very straightforward to dismiss the claim on the basis that he left his common sense behind and was the author of his own misfortune.

Forbes Comment

This case is a useful reminder that cases are not always as complicated as the pleaded claim may appear. It is often important to cut through the pleaded regulations and identify what the case is really about. This case was simply about whether there was an adequate work system in place that the claimant had been trained in, and whether he had the equipment to adhere to the policy and his training. With the Court being satisfied that both these issues had been provided by the employer, it was an easier task for the trial judge to assess whether the actions of the Claimant himself were in line with "common sense" for a trained and competent operative.

For more information contact Ridwaan Omar in our Insurance department via email or phone on 01254 222457. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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