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#1 Posted : 29 July 2001 17:05:00(UTC)
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Posted By Nick Higginson
At a recent training session, one of our Facilities staff did a presentation on their job, and came out with the following - "We were told by a h&s consultant that if we gritted car parks at 7 am, and they had froze again by 9 am and someone slipped over, then we would be liable to legal action. However, if we do nothing and someone slips, it is classed as an Act of God and we are not liable".

Can you believe this? I tried to disagree, but the rest of the group disagreed with me (including the trainer!!). I subsequently rang an HSE Inspector (maybe I was genuinely bothered, maybe I don't like being disagreed with!) who agreed with me (hurrah).

How on earth can you be doing all that is "reasonably practicable" if you don't do anyhting? At least you have a defence if you had tried to clear the ice?
The Workplace Regs also talk about routes that are not wet or slippy, so where does this come from?
I am aware of the fables about milkmen slipping on a salted path, and suing the homeowner, but surely this cannot apply to health and safey law?

And anyway, aside from the legal issue, assuming this consultant was right, what about our moral duty? This chap has broken his leg, can't play his beloved footy on a weekend, is off work for 6 months, but hwo cares, it was an act of god?

Can anyone shed any light, or do you have similar experiences with Facilities staff?

Nick
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#2 Posted : 30 July 2001 11:56:00(UTC)
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Posted By Diane Warne
Nick,
Of course you are right, and the HSE inspector has confirmed that. Your problem seems to be that your colleagues are happy to accept barmy opinions about H&S from a non-H&S professional (the facilities person.) That person might have misunderstood something that was said by the consultant. Of COURSE an employer has to do what is reasonably practicable, as you said. Try telling a lawyer that you think you'd get off if an employee had slipped and been injured, and the company had done nothing to prevent it. When they have stopped laughing they will probably tell you how unlikely it is that the "Act of God" defence would be to work in a case like this.
Who was this trainer? - hopefully not an H&S professional! It sounds like you've got a problem with H&S information in your organisation.
Is there someone in management you could talk this over with?
Good luck.
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#3 Posted : 30 July 2001 12:02:00(UTC)
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Posted By Richard
This is a hoary old chestnut which regularly appears, and is just as regularly de-bunked, at least it is if I am around!

Another facet of this particular diamond is the belief that by the time the workforce arrive at 8.30 the caretaker, who starts at 7.30, has to clear and salt a 250 space car park and all the the footpaths! "Reasonably Practicable" is the term I think!

Diane hits the nail on the head when she talks about people accepting barmy opinions from non-H&S professionals. I am constantly amazed by the number of people in my organisation who know more about health and safety than I do! They usually preface their conversation with "The Health and Safety at Work Act says........... . I usually then produce my copy of the act and say, "Could you find that for me, please? I wasn't aware of that and it obviously has implications which I need to study"!!

Of course, sometimes they do come back and say "That is your job not mine", which is exactly the point you are trying to make.

Happy hols to those of you yet to go, and welcome back to those who've been

Richard
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#4 Posted : 30 July 2001 12:48:00(UTC)
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Posted By Jay Joshi
This problem arises when those with purely limited non health & safety "legal" knowledge attempt to extrapolate "common law" precedents that may apply to public paths etc. such as those outside homes to workplace situations. If the car park is within the premises, then it is the employers duty to prevent slips trips & falls--so far as is reasonably practicable
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#5 Posted : 30 July 2001 14:40:00(UTC)
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Posted By Ken Taylor
You and the HSE are correct. Common Law and occupiers liability require persons having duties of care and in control of premises to do what is reasonable. HASAWA-derived legislation requires what is reasonably practicable. I would not advocate attributing slippery surfaces to acts by God - but He might be invoked to preserve us from both lack of action by humans and the directions of ill-informed trainers.
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#6 Posted : 31 July 2001 12:28:00(UTC)
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Posted By Jim Walker
Just as a matter of interest, is there any truth in these urban myths about postmen paperboys sueing home-owners.

I know it happens in USA, everyone is up at 5am, after a snowfall clearing their drives. I have a friend in PA who didn't bother and the local police gave him a visit - land of the free and all that.
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