05 June 2011

Court of Appeal gives guidance on employers’ duties to provide protective clothing

The duty on employers to provide suitable protective clothing is a high one, requiring a comprehensive risk assessment, the Court of Appeal has emphasised in a recent case.

A council worker wearing standard cloth and suede gloves issued to him by his employer badly lacerated his hand while picking up a bag of garden waste at work. He took the Council to court on grounds the gloves it provided were inadequate. The employer argued that, while the risk of injury from sharp objects was foreseeable, it was minimal and it was therefore under no duty to provide better gloves.

The county court agreed with the employer but the Court of Appeal said that the employer should have carried out a more comprehensive risk assessment, which took into account the specific risk of laceration. The Council had a duty to provide protection against that risk and, as it could not be controlled in any other way, it had failed to discharge its duty when it provided gloves that did not do so.

Recommendation

Employers should ensure they carry out rigorous risk assessments that take into account specific risks, and identify ways to provide protection against the risks identified.

For more information on this topic, contact Head of Employment Ian Dawson on 0113 297 7735 or at idawson@shulmans.co.uk.

Case ref:

Threlfall v Hull City Council [2010] EWCA Civ 1147