21 April, 2009
The Claimant was employed by the Defendant as a support worker in social services. He claimed that while working at a respite home run by the Defendants, he slipped and fell as a result of a wet floor and while chasing a service user who had run out of control. Forbes Solicitors represented the council.
The service user had thrown breakfast cereal at the wall and run amok causing the Claimant and another member of staff to pursue him. A further member of staff mopped the spillage and it was during the pursuit the Claimant said he had slipped on the recently mopped floor. The Claimant alleged breaches of the Workplace Regulations and a failure to warn and put out signs. The Defendant raised causation issues and made the point that putting out warning signs was impractical and could have been used as weapon by the service user himself.
The judge found the Claimant's evidence inconsistent under cross examination. He was unclear where he had fallen. He alleged that the member of staff who had mopped the floor stood by, unconcerned, and watched him fall. The Defendant for their part, produced that person's diary entry in which she had recorded in detail the mopping even down to the type of cereal with no fall being mentioned. The Claimant also had not reported the accident for 7 weeks. He said the injury was 'really painful' and yet records produced showed he had continued to work even claiming overtime.
The judge declared himself unconvinced by the Claimant's evidence and impressed by the Defendant's evidence particularly the member of staff who cleaned the floor who he described as a caring person who would not stand by as suggested had she seen him hurt.
The claim was accordingly dismissed.
Slipping accidents in the workplace can appear to present problems for Defendants where onerous statutory duties apply to employers. Where defences of reasonable practicability are raised the burden of proof switches clearly to the employer. Notwithstanding that claims can and should be successfully resisted where the Claimant's case cannot meet the appropriate forensic test.