Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Treading carefully around campus


It may seem extraordinary that something as small as a paving slab can end up at the court of appeal. However, in a recent case (Craner v Dorset County Council) a school caretaker won his case for a breach of health and safety regulations and the case turned on an uneven slab.

The sack truck that the caretaker was pushing on a path hit the slab. His knee hit the truck. He was obliged to have an operation and the result was that he had to give up work earlier than he would otherwise have expected.

The court of appeal had hard things to say about the tactics of the defendant county council. Instead of checking the slab and whether it would in fact have produced the argued effect, the council hired a private investigator to trail the caretaker. The sum total of its defence appeared to be that the caretaker was subsequently seen Morris dancing - which is not unlawful.

The key point in the case was the fact that surfaces of walkways in a workplace, in or out of a building, must be even and free of obstruction or other hazards, such as water. The normal rules of negligence (for example, was an accident foreseeable) do not apply. Nor did the court accept that the hazard was incapable of causing the injury because there was no evidence from the accident book that it had before.

While ASCL members have better things to do with their time than pushing trolleys round the site to identify hazards, someone should be checking for and dealing with problems. The suggestion that the county council had more important things to spend its money on was given very short shrift indeed.

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