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Protecting Your Workers

Slips and trips are often seen as comical but they are a leading cause of accidents.

The recent Supreme Court decision re-emphasises employers’ duty to protect workers including those who work out in the community.

The UK’s highest Civil Court has ruled that an employer was liable for the injuries of a home care assistant who slipped on an icy pavement when visiting a client.

The Supreme Court held that Glasgow City Council-owned Cordia failed to provide suitable protective footwear to the employee despite the long-lasting severe weather. The healthcare worker was wearing flat shoes with some ridging and the pavement had not been gritted or salted.

The court ruled that risks had not been properly evaluated. Not only was the possibility of injury very high, but it could have been be serious and include fractures and head injuries.

Despite this, no consideration “was given to the possibility of individual protective measures, before relying on the measure of last resort, namely giving appropriate instructions to employees,” said the Supreme Court’s judgment. Even then, the instructions given, in the form of advice to wear appropriate footwear, provided no specification of what might be appropriate. So Cordia was found to be in breach of the Regulations.

In short the Court decided that a suitable risk assessment had not been completed and that bland statements short on detail, such as wear sensible shoes, is not enough in some cases.

Simply conducting a tick-box exercise and then placing the risk assessment in a tidy file will not suffice to protect employers from liability, whether civil, or criminal.

You need to involve your employees with the risk assessment process and specify what Personal Protective Equipment is required and not make open ended comments like wear gloves.