Breach of Statutory Duty - reg 12(3), Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) 1992 - Foreseeability - Obstruction
26 February 2014
A claim for personal injury as a result of a tripping accident at work was dismissed. The pipe, which the claimant tripped over, was obvious and the trial judge was not wrong to find that the pipe was not an obstruction in accordance with reg 12(3) of Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (‘the Regulations')
On27 March 2010, the claimant was working at the defendant's bakery on the production line, sitting on a chair placing muffins onto a conveyor belt. Her colleague came to relieve her and as the claimant stood up, she tripped over a pipe which allowed the jam to be inserted into the muffins. The pipe was 18 inches off the ground and 6 inches in diameter. The claim was dismissed in the first instance. The claimant appealed, claiming the judge was wrong as a matter of law to find that the pipe was not an obstruction in accordance with reg 12(3).
It was held that reg 12(3) is concerned with obstructions, articles or substances which may cause a person to trip or fall. The two stage test to be considered was: first was there such an obstruction, and if so, was it reasonably practicable to do anything to reduce or eliminate the risk? The present case only focused on the first stage. Stage one of the test certainly involved consideration of forseeability, McGhee v Strathclyde Fire Brigade  SLT 680cited. The judge's finding was that the pipe was at such a distance from the chair and was so obvious that it did not present a real risk of tripping based on the analysis of McGhee.
Regulation 12(3) is designed to address objects or substances which should not otherwise have been on a factory or workplace floor. McGhee, Merseyside Fire and Civil Defence Authority v Bassie  EWCA Civ 1474, Burgess v Plymouth City Council  EWCA Civ 1659 and Anderson v Newham College  EWCA Civ 505 werecited. In those cases an object or substance had been left somewhere it should not have been, or in a condition it should not have been in, and in the consequence, has been held to be something which triggered reg 12(3). This was, in the words of the judge, the ‘complete opposite' to the present case as the pipe was part of the plant and was where it always was. In dismissing the appeal, it was found that the pipe was not likely to present a risk of tripping and therefore not an obstruction in accordance with reg 12(3).
This case clearly illustrates the courts view on the foreseeability aspect of reg 12(3) of the Workplace Regulations 1992, and what constitutes a ‘real risk' of tripping.
Kim Pryce, Anthony Gold