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Jack v Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, District Judge

8 October 2002
The issues

Emergency Services – firefighter – risk assessment – trip. Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992.

The facts

The Claimant tripped whilst he was carrying a mattress downstairs during salvage operations after a fire. The usual procedure on such occasions would have been to throw the mattress out of a window. However, there was no window and the order was given to move the mattress to the first floor and throw it from a window there. The staircase between the attic and the first floor was steep, narrow and unlit without a handrail and with a sharp turn at the top. The staircase had electric cables and a hose reel trailing on it. Three firefighters were ordered to take the mattress downstairs. All had been trained in moving on staircases in the dark. The Claimant tripped and fell. The Claimant alleged that the Defendant had failed to take reasonable steps to reduce the risk and in particular, had breached Regulation 4(1)(b)(ii) Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992.

The decision

1. As a matter of fact, it was found that the Claimant had tripped on hose reel or a cable and not on the stairs.

2. The Claimant was highly trained and an experienced firefighter and was part of a team trained to deal with the routine hazards of carrying casualties downstairs in dark conditions.

3. The experienced crew had been aware of the risk and had assessed and had chosen to walk down the stairs without complaint.

4. The Court was not satisfied that lighting would have made any difference, or that the hose would have been a safer way of balancing the risk of a trip with a more serious risk of the fire starting again.

Claim dismissed.

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