Hufton v Somerset CC - Court of Appeal (07/07/2011)
In October 2006 a 15 year old pupil slipped on a wet floor near the fire escape in the school hall and brought a claim against the Local Authority.
There were two access/egress points to the hall, one being through the fire exit doors leading from the quad outside the building. The school had a risk assessment and policy in place which incorporated; pupils were not allowed to enter the hall via the fire exit on wet days and barrier matting fitted inside and outside the entrance. Furthermore, signs were erected at the fire exit door and prefects were instructed to prevent access to pupils. At the beginning of break (10:45) it was not raining. The rain began approximately half way through the break and unfortunately a small amount of water was deposited onto the floor.
The judge dismissed the claim - there was no breach of Section 2 of the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 as the precautions put in place by the school represented a reasonable system.
The claimant took the case to the Court of Appeal with nine separate grounds - the main one based on the decision in Ward v Tesco Stores Ltd.  1 WLR 810 'the claimant slipped on some yoghurt on the floor - spillages occurred ten times per week - the defendant did not have an adequate system in place'. There had been water on the assembly hall floor and the school did not have a proper system for clearing away the water. The Court of Appeal stated that "the evidence does not show that liquid gathering on the floor was a frequent problem or that there needed to be a special system to ensure prompt mopping up".
"It is not possible, and the law does not require, the occupier of premises to take measures which would absolutely prevent any accident from ever occurring. What is required both by the common law and by section 2 of the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 is the exercise of reasonable care." (Jackson LJ)
The Court of Appeal adopted a common sense view, pointing out that the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 does not impose strict liability on occupiers.
Accidents and Incidents:
A five year old pupil who attends a special school in Telford had their finger amputated in the hinge of a cupboard door.
The design of the hinge would appear to be unsuitable for use in early years / special school settings, there is a square aperture in the hinge, on closing the door this aperture creates a guillotine effect which sheared through the pupils finger.
The organisation is currently looking at a longer term solution. In the short term please take steps to ensure you minimise risk from these hinges.
a) If possible keep the cupboards locked.
b) If this is not possible, take other steps to ensure children do not open/close them.
c) Inform all children to take care not to put their fingers in or near these hinges. Ask staff to be vigilant.
d) Sellotape on the outer face of the hinge provides a temporary solution but in the longer term a more robust solution will be required.
All schools and Children's Centres have been contacted to complete an inspection of their cupboard hinges.
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) Change - 06/04/2012:
From 6 April 2012, subject to Parliamentary approval, RIDDOR's over three day injury reporting requirement will change. From then the trigger point will increase from over three days' to over seven days' incapacitation (not counting the day on which the accident happened).
Incapacitation means that the worker is absent or is unable to do work that they would reasonably be expected to do as part of their normal work.
Employers and others with responsibilities under RIDDOR must still keep a record of all over three day injuries - if the employer has to keep an accident book, then this record will be enough.
The deadline by which the over seven day injury must be reported will increase to 15 days from the day of the accident.
New guidance that explains the change will be available to download from the HSE website on 16 January 2012