A lesson the Hampshire Constabulary found out the hard way: Chief Constable of the Hampshire Police v Taylor, [2013] EWCA Civ 496. Police Constable Taylor was engaged in dismantling a grow op, and had been issued a pair of latex gloves for the purpose. The house in question was poorly ventilated and PC Taylor felt 'nauseous as a result of the unpleasant smell of cannabis' which pervaded it (not a universal reaction, that; although too much of anything may be unpleasant). She pushed at a window to let in some air, not realising that the occupants of the house had sealed all the windows. She broke the glass and received a cut on her thumb from the breaking pane. PC Taylor sued her employer, the Hampshire Constabulary, for failing to provide gloves that were thick enough to prevent her injury. The police countered with the argument that uprooting cannabis plants wasn't likely to require anything thicker, as there are no sharp edges on a marijuana plant.

The trial judge found for the police officer, awarding damages of just under ₤5,000. The Constabulary was in breach of regulations related to personal protective equipment in the workplace, which required the employer to provide suitable equipment where there is more than minimal risk of injury. Dismantling a grow op involves more than pulling up plants: there is ductwork that needs to be removed, which might expose the dismantler to sharp edges. The risk of injury was not so slight as to be trivial, even if it was relatively low. The English Court of Appeal has dismissed the police force's appeal. The employer had failed to provide equipment necessary to prevent injuries that might reasonably arise from the range of tasks to be performed in the course of the activity. It would not be realistic to make a 'fine analysis' of each specific task the worker might perform and classify them individually as exposing him or her to pointy things or non-pointy things. The appellant did not raise remoteness of damage or argue that the regs simply didn't apply to the activities in question: 'potentially interesting questions' but about which there was nothing to say on the appeal as argued.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/496.html