Glasgow & West Scotland

Supreme Court backs damages for carer who slipped on ice

A Glasgow home carer has won a ruling at the Supreme Court in London which could help other injured workers.

Tracey Kennedy, 45, was hurt after slipping on ice while visiting a terminally ill client in December 2010.

A judge later ruled she was entitled to damages as her employer, Cordia, had not supplied the proper footwear.

That decision was later overturned on appeal but the original judgement has now been upheld unanimously by five Supreme Court judges.

The case was originally heard before Lord McEwan at the Outer House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh in 2013.

Wrist injury

The court heard how Ms Kennedy had gone out with another member of staff to visit a client in Crookston during severe weather in 18 December 2010.

While attempting to walk to the client's door she slipped on ice, which was below recent snow, and fell backwards injuring her wrist.

Ms Kennedy's legal team argued that under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, Cordia had a duty to ensure that suitable equipment was provided to staff if they could not control the risk of slipping on ice.

Cordia, which is an arms-length care services firm of Glasgow City Council, argued that Ms Kennedy could have made the decision not to go out that night because conditions were too hazardous.

Judge Lord McEwan rejected this and accepted evidence that Ms Kennedy was providing an essential service to a vulnerable elderly client who might otherwise have spent the night sitting in a chair, in pain, without her medication.

The court found that a relatively cheap over-shoe attachment was available and being used by other local authorities and employers.

This would have provided grip when walking on ice and would have been effective in preventing the accident.

Lord McEwan said that the health and safety of people working in dangerous conditions in Scotland should be paramount, noting that "everyone has to live and work through winters" and that fundamentally "safety is to be levelled upwards".

'Inherent hazard'

Cordia's appeal against the ruling was unanimously upheld the following year at the Inner House of the Court of Session by Lady Smith, sitting with Lord Brodie and Lord Clarke.

The judges ruled that Cordia had not duty to "determine exactly what their competent adult employees should wear on their feet when negotiating the streets of Glasgow" and that Ms Kennedy had faced "an ordinary risk arising in a public place from the ordinary facts of life in Scotland".

They also found that there was no "inherent hazard" to Ms Kennedy's job and that gave rise to the risk she faced and that Cordia had no control over it.

Ms Kennedy's appeal against that ruling has now been unanimously upheld at the Supreme Court in London by Lord Reed, sitting with Lord Hodge, Lady Hale, Lord Wilson and Lord Toulson.

The judges found that Cordia was aware of the risks posed by ice as these had been identified in previous assessments in 2005 and 2010 and the firm had previous experience of home carers suffering such accidents.

They found that Lord McEwan was entitled to conclude that there had been a breach of management regulations.

The judges also found that Ms Kennedy was at work at the time and Lord McEwan had noted that anti-slip shoe attachments were available which would have reduced the risk of carers slipping and falling on ice.

The Supreme Court judges ruled that Lord McEwan was entitled to conclude that Cordia had breached Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations.

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