Bosses receive frost alert to manage bad weather risks

Employers are on frost alert, following the news that a home care worker has won her claim for damages after slipping on ice and breaking her wrist when visiting a client.
The ruling by the Supreme Court means that employers who expect staff to work outside in icy conditions will have to review risk management processes and consider whether they need to provide special equipment.

Tracey Kennedy was visiting the house of an elderly client in December 2010 when she fell and injured her wrist, after slipping on a path covered with snow and ice.  At the time she was wearing a pair of flat, ridged sole boots, and later sued her employer for damages for breach of duty, claiming they should have provided her with crampon style attachments to provide the necessary extra grip in the icy conditions.

The Supreme Court said that her employers had not carried out suitable and sufficientrisk assessments to meet health and safety at work regulations, despite having received previous reports of similar incidents and knowing there were icy conditions at the time, as the freezing weather had persisted for weeks.

Because the anti-slip attachments were relatively low-cost, easily available and had been used effectively by other employers to reduce risk, the judges ruled that the failure to provide the crampons had caused, or materially contributed, to the accident.

Said Jane Crosby, employment expert with Guildford solicitors Hart Brown: “This case has been through a number of appeals, finally arriving in the Supreme Court, and some may think the ruling seems overly paternalistic, but the Supreme Court made a distinction between an ordinary member of the public who could choose whether to go out and what route to use, and an employee who had no choice but to go out in bad weather and walk on untreated footpaths as part of their employment.”

She added:  “It’s likely that trade unions will be arguing for provision of shoe attachments for use in icy conditions, if employers want to avoid liability claims where employees are injured after falling in ice or snow.

“And of course, the bigger picture isn’t just about slipping in bad weather, it’s why employers have to provide life jackets where employees are working on water, or safety harnesses if they’re working at heights.  What’s important is making sure that risk assessments are made regularly, with feedback or new knowledge factored in, and any appropriate protective or safety equipment put in place.“

The case hinged on a breach of Regulation 3 of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, failure to carry out suitable risk assessments, and Regulations 4 and 10 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, requiring employers to provide suitable equipment to their employees to avoid risks to their healthand safety, and ensure the equipment is properly used.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Jane Crosby

Partner, Dispute Resolution

Jane is an employment and commercial litigation solicitor of more than 15 years' experience. Prior to entering the legal profession, Jane was employed in the...

Partner, Dispute Resolution

Jane Crosby

Jane is an employment and commercial litigation solicitor of more than 15 years' experience.

Prior to entering the legal profession, Jane was employed in the aviation industry. This experience is appreciated by many of Jane's clients who note that she is able to take a commercial and pragmatic approach to any legal issue that they face.

Jane acts for a wide range of individuals and businesses and her areas of specialism include aviation, property related industries and IT. Jane regularly advises on aspects of employment law, such as settlement agreements, employment contracts, policies and procedures, redundancies, equal pay, data protection, issues arising from TUPE and reorganisations, the calculation of holiday pay, bonus and commission payments, disciplinary and grievance issues, dismissal and termination issues, the protection of confidential information and the enforcement of restrictive covenants. Jane gets involved in GDPR training for her clients and she is able to deliver tailored employment law training sessions upon request.

As a commercial litigation lawyer, Jane also deals in shareholder and directors disputes, commercial contract disputes and the enforcement of restrictive covenants.

Jane has been involved in successful high value commercial litigation for clients in the High Courts, she is an accredited mediator and she is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.

Jane is often asked to write for a number of well known publications, including The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Week and she has been interviewed on BBC Radio 4.

Here is small selection of the feedback that Jane has received:

“Jane, I cannot sincerely thank you enough for your wise counsel and am delighted to have made your acquaintance. If I am blessed with a new position somewhere I will hand over my contract in the first instance to you. Likewise, any of my friends, peers, romans and countrymen wanting advice, I will point them in your direction.”

“Jane, you have been most resilient on my behalf for which I sincerely thank you for all your endeavours. I have a tremendous working relationship with Hart Brown and you have undoubtedly compounded this further."

“I appreciated the clarity of advice given at a stressful time”.

“A sensitive and highly professional approach and efficient work in the interests of the client”.

“Your advice, conduct and assistance have been indeed outstanding and very professional but also – and most importantly – very humane”.

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Hart Brown Solicitors is the trading name of Hart Brown LLP registered in England and Wales No. OC 425835 whose registered office is Resolution House, Riverview, Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, GU1 4UX and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) No. 658593. Members: N Maud, T Pearce, D Knapp, R Campbell and P Grimwood, Partners: J Crosby, L Harrhy, J Jupp, J Lamont, T Mandelli, V McMurtrie, E Moore, S Osborne, S Powell, G Sanders and E Wiggins.

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