Smith v Northamptonshire County Council: HL 20 May 2009

The claimant, a health care worker was visiting the home of a client when she fell from a defective wheelchair ramp and suffered injury. She sought damages from her employer.
Held: Her appeal failed (Lord Hope and Lady Hale dissenting). The test was whether the equipment was sufficiently incorporated into and adopted as part of the employer’s undertaking. If control was any sort of guide to the scope of regulation 3(2), it could only be in the sense of control over the work equipment. In this case that had not been established. The employer had no right to repair the equipment, it was neither theirs and nor was it under their control. Their inspection of the ramp did not change this. If the inspection had revealed a defect which was ignored they might have been liable in negligence but that situation did not in fact arise.

Lord Hope of Craighead, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Carswell, Lord Mance and Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury
[2009] UKHL 27, Times 21-May-2009, [2009] 4 All ER 557, [2009] 1 WLR 2353, [2009] All ER (D) 170
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
England and Wales
Appeal fromSmith v Northamptonshire County Council CA 11-Mar-2008
The claimant was employed as a care worker to collect patients to take them to a day centre. She was injured when a wheelchair ramp in a patient’s home collapsed.
Held: The council were not responsible under the Regulations. They did not own . .
CitedStark v Post Office CA 2-Mar-2000
A component in a postman’s bicycle gave way even though the machine had been sensibly maintained and checked. He sought damages for his injuries.
Held: The duty imposed by the regulations was absolute, and an employee postal worker who was . .
CitedSmith v Cammell Laird and Co Ltd HL 1940
The Regulations imposed an absolute obligation from the words ‘all staging . . shall be maintained.’ Lord Atkin said: ‘It is precisely in the absolute obligation imposed by statute to perform or forbear from performing a specified activity that a . .
CitedNimmo v Alexander Cowan and Sons Ltd HL 1967
The employer was prosecuted under the 1961 Act.
Held: the burden of proving that it was not reasonably practicable to make and keep a place of work safe rested upon the defendant employer. If an exception was to be established, it was for the . .
CitedMillar v Galashiels Gas Co Ltd; Galashiels Gas Company Ltd v O’Donnell HL 20-Jan-1949
A hoist mechanism failed, the employee was injured, and he sought damages from his employer under the Act.
Held: The section imposes an absolute obligation to maintain work equipment in an efficient state or in efficient working order. The . .
CitedHamilton v National Coal Board HL 1960
A duty to maintain involves an obligation to keep the thing in proper order by acts of maintenance before it falls out of condition, in a state which enables it to serve the purpose for which it exists.
Lord Jenkins said: ‘Were it not for the . .
CitedHammond v Commissioner of Police for Metropolis and others CA 11-Jun-2004
The claimant mechanic was employed by the Commissioner of Police. He was working on the wheel of a police dog van when the shearing of a wheel bolt caused him to suffer injury. The question was whether the van was ‘work equipment’ within the meaning . .
CitedPRP Architects v Reid CA 28-Jul-2006
A lift was held to be work equipment within the Regulations. . .
CitedSpencer-Franks v Kellogg Brown and Root Ltd and others HL 2-Jul-2008
The deceased worked for the defendants on an oil rig. He was injured by a door closer he was attempting to repair. The defendants denied that the mechanism was equipment within the Regulations.
Held: The appeal was allowed. The door closer was . .
CitedMason and Another v Satelcom Ltd and East Potential Ltd CA 14-May-2008
The claimant was replacing a computer memory card. He fell from a ladder suffering injury. He was employed by the defendant contracting for another defendant, and used a ladder on loan from another neighbour.
Held: The contribution sought from . .
CitedCouzens v T McGee and Co Ltd CA 19-Feb-2009
The driver appealed against refusal of his claim for damages. As a driver, he also used a makeshift tool. He said that his employers provided no proper place for it to be kept, so he placed in in a side pocket of his cab. It fell out and prevented . .
CitedArmstrong, Whitworth and Co Ltd v Redford HL 1920
Lord Wrenbury said: ‘I have long since abandoned the hope of deciding any case upon the words ‘out of and in the course of’ upon grounds satisfactory to myself or convincing to others’. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Health and Safety, Personal Injury

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.346225