[2012] IEHC 133 - Peart J.

Plaintiff’s claim for damages for personal injury dismissed on basis that his employer had taken all reasonable measures in respect of the Plaintiff’s safety.

Facts

The Plaintiff was an experienced heavy goods driver who sustained injuries when he fell from the top of a ladder which was affixed to the back of a large articulated cement container. At the time the accident occurred, the Plaintiff was collecting cement from the premises of Irish Cement in Ringsend.  In accordance with standard procedure, prior to leaving the premises, the Plaintiff was required to remove any excess cement from the top of the container.  In an effort to clean cement from the top of the container, the Plaintiff climbed the ladder at the rear of the container whilst holding a high-power hose. As he was descending the ladder and still holding the power hose, he fell to the ground.   

Judgment

Peart J accepted the evidence put forward on behalf of the Defendant to the effect that the Plaintiff had been made aware that, under no circumstances was the high-power hose to be used whilst standing on the top of a container. Peart J was of the view that the Plaintiff had brought the incident on himself by disobeying a very clear instruction given to him by his employer and by Irish Cement.   Peart J accepted that the other options available to lorry drivers for cleaning their vehicles were not available to the Plaintiff on this particular day but he stated that this was not the direct cause of the Plaintiff’s accident. The direct cause was the Plaintiff’s insistence on doing something which he was expressly prohibited from doing and the Plaintiff’s claim was dismissed.

Comment

The decision in this case emphasises the fact that employees are expected to take care for their own safety and that they will have difficulty in establishing negligence against their employer if their injuries are sustained as a direct result of their failure to adhere to their training and to adhere to established safe work practices.

There is no doubt that it can be very difficult to defend employers' liability cases where an employee sustains a genuine injury during the course of their employment. However, where an employer has done all that is required of them in terms of health and safety and the provision of appropriate training and supervision, including full compliance with their statutory obligations, then the employer should have a good prospect of successfully defending a claim brought by an injured employee.

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