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Judges Stamp on 'Health and Safety Gone Mad'

Employers are under a duty to carry out careful assessments of risks run by workers going about their jobs. However, that does not extend to analysing such everyday matters as walking up and down stairs, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

A receptionist suffered ligament damage to her wrist when she fell on a flight of stairs whilst delivering mail between floors of an office block. In awarding her £6,000 in damages, a judge found that her employer had failed to assess the health and safety risks involved in carrying out the task she was required to perform.

The judge reached that conclusion reluctantly, observing that it was a case of ‘health and safety gone mad’. He rejected as dishonest the woman’s primary case, that she was over-burdened with post and tripped on a sticky patch on the staircase, but nevertheless ruled that he was constrained to uphold her claim.

In allowing the employer’s appeal, the Court noted that it was simply a case of the woman having misjudged her footing and that the only way in which that risk could have been averted was by preventing her from using the stairs. Although her employer was arguably in breach of its duty to carry out an assessment, it could not be said that any such failure had caused her accident.