Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Caretaker wins ladder fall case

A school caretaker has successfully sued Hampshire County Council after he was injured falling off a stepladder.

Anthony Gower-Smith, 73, fell off the 6ft (180cm) stepladder at Awbridge Primary School in Romsey in 2004.

In court, he claimed his employer had not shown him how to use the ladder. The council denied negligence.

But on Friday, Mr Gower-Smith, from North Baddesley, won his case on the basis the council was 75% to blame. His compensation will now be assessed.

Mr Gower-Smith, who had made a claim for £50,000, suffered a fractured skull, fractured cheek bone and kidney injuries in the fall, leading to treatment in intensive care.

He has not been able to work since the accident.

Hampshire County Council said the caretaker was given adequate training and equipment to do the job.

The authority said Mr Gower-Smith signed an induction training sheet in 2002 on starting the job to show he had received training to use stepladders.

At the time a health and safety report said the council was not at fault and the council claimed that Mr Gower-Smith had positioned the ladder improperly before overbalancing.

At London's High Court, Recorder Christopher Moger QC, who recently heard the case at Winchester County Court, said Mr Gower-Smith's training was deficient.

He said Mr Gower-Smith knew he should not go on to the top platform of the ladder but did so and, by doing so, increased the likelihood of it overturning.

"Notwithstanding his self-confidence and readiness to trust in his own judgement, I find that his lack of training was responsible for... his lack of awareness of the extent of the danger posed and therefore the accident itself," he said.

The damages award will be reduced by 25% to reflect Mr Gower-Smith's contributory negligence.

After the verdict Hampshire County Council said it was sorry but "surprised and disappointed" with the decision.

Councillor David Kirk, Hampshire County Council's member for children's services, said: "While the judge acknowledged training had been given to Mr Gower-Smith he found that there was insufficient emphasis placed on the positioning of the step ladder even though this guidance is in our manual, which is routinely reviewed to reflect new HSE regulations.

"Hampshire County Council takes health and safety very seriously and last year we were among a number of local authorities who signed up to the HSE's sensible risk campaign."




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