Court rules inadequate training led to wrist injury

Allison v London Underground (Court of Appeal - 13 February 2008)

Mrs Allison was employed by London Underground as a train driver. She developed tenosynovitis in her right wrist caused by prolonged use of the traction brake controller.

At the design stage, advice was obtained from an ergonomist regarding all aspects of the driving position and operation of the TBC, with the exception of the design of the end of the TBC handle. This was designed with a chamfered edge at the suggestion of two experienced drivers.

The issue for the court was whether London Underground was in breach of regulation nine of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 in failing to ensure that Mrs Allison had received adequate training.

The judge at first instance dismissed the claim.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial judge that the duty owed by an employer under regulation nine is not absolute. The court found that the test for the adequacy of the training provided is whether the training deals with the risks the employer ought to have known arising from the activities of his business. This entails an employer carrying out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment under regulation three to identify the risks in respect of which employees need training.

The court held that London Underground did not carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment - had it done so it would have obtained an expert report on the design and use of the TBC handle, identified the risk of injury when used in the manner adopted by Mrs Allison and provided adequate training. The claimant's appeal therefore succeeded.

COMMENT

The Court of Appeal's decision emphasises the need for employers to ensure that they assess all the risks that may arise from the activities of their business and provide adequate training to address those risks. - Sheila Russell, BLM Stockton-on-Tees.

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