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Koonjul v Thames Link Healthcare Services NHS Trust, Court of Appeal

26 May 2000
The issues

Residential Home – level of risk

The facts

The Claimant worked as a Care Assistant at the Rainbow Lodge, Dartford a small residential home for children and sustained a back injury when making an unusually low bed. The issue arose as to precise evaluation of the level of risk involved in carrying out a number of everyday manual handling operations with precise warnings to each employee and as to what extent this was impracticable.

The decision

(i) To bring the case within Regulation 4 there had to be a real risk – a foreseeable possibility of injury and certainly nothing approaching a probability.

(ii) Making such an assessment the employer was not entitled to assume that all employers would on all occasions behave with care for their own safety.

(iii) The purpose of the Regulation was to place on employers an obligation to look after their employees safely which they might not otherwise have;

(iv) There had to be an element of realism however.

(v) This case involved a small residential home with a small number of employees carrying out everyday tasks and a particular employee who had been carrying out such tasks for a long time. The employer in assessing the risks was entitled to take that into account.

(vi) It was arguable that the act of bending down to pull away a bed from a wall involved an element of risk.

(vii) That the obligation was to reduce risk to the lowest level reasonably practicable. This particular employees work involved a number of particular tasks, any one of which could be described as manual handling – lifting bedding moving beds around, moving chests of drawers and moving chairs. The idea of the level of risk involved (very low) should be met by a precise evaluation of each of those tasks and precise warnings to each employee as to how each was to be carried out was beyond the realms of practicability.

Comments

See also Rowe -v- Swansea City at April CL480

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