Blair v The Chief Constable of Sussex Police [15.05.12]
Defendant in breach of Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 for failing to provide stronger boots for motorcycle course.
This decision is a reminder that employers should be alert to the obligations placed on them by the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. Lord Justice Longmore held that the Defendant had not discharged the obligation (which was on him) of showing that he had complied with the requirements of the Regulations. However, as Longmore LJ pointed out, this did not mean that the Defendant was negligent at common law. Nor was it relevant to consider whether it would have been sensible to provide stronger boots to trainees, who would be unlikely to be wearing them in the course of their operational duties. Provided there has been a breach of the Regulations, a claim will succeed.
In practical terms, it will always be sensible for employers to prepare a risk assessment, which should identify the risks, and whether the equipment provided is effective to prevent or adequately control those risks.
On 21 May 2009 the Claimant, a serving policeman, broke his ankle and tibia whilst he was undertaking an advanced motorcycle course as part of his training with the Sussex police force. He and two other trainees were required to ride off road. Part of the track was heavily rutted. Whilst negotiating this part of the track, the motorcycle tilted. The Claimant lost control and fell over, with the motorcycle on top of his lower leg. At the time he was wearing classic clubman tourer boots (known as Alt-berg boots) which were issued as a standard item to members of the Sussex police force. At first instance his claim was dismissed. He appealed on the basis that the boots were unsuitable, in breach of the 1992 Regulations.
Longmore LJ allowed the Claimant’s appeal. He referred to the decision of the Court of Appeal in Threlfall v Kingston-upon-Hull City Council .
Following this decision:
- It is necessary to identify the risk of injury, and then to ask if the equipment provided was, so far as practicable, effective to prevent or adequately control that risk.
- Only if the equipment is effective, or it is not practicable to make it effective, is there any need to consider whether the equipment is appropriate within Regulation 4(3)(a) or take account of ergonomic requirements or the claimant’s state of health within Regulation 4(3)(b).
There was no doubt that the boots supplied to Mr Blair were not effective to ensure the prevention of significant injury. There was no evidence that it was impracticable to use stronger boots. The evidence of the Claimant’s orthopaedic expert, that the injuries would have been minimised if he was wearing stronger boots, was enough to prove causation.