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Coates v Jaguar Cars Limited, Court of Appeal, 4 March 2004

11 March 2004
The issues

Trip – steps – handrail – Work Place (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 Regulation 12(5).

The facts

The Claimant who was employed by the Defendant, tripped as he was going up a flight of steps at the Defendant’s factory. The flight consisted of four steps and the Claimant tripped on the third. The Judge at first instance found the Defendant negligent in failing to provide a handrail. Had the Defendant considered the risk that risk would have been safeguarded against by the provision of a handrail. However, the Defendant was not found in breach of Regulation 12, on the basis that the steps did not amount to a “staircase”. The Defendant appealed and the Claimant appealed the finding in respect of Regulation 12.

The decision

1. The effect of the Judge’s ruling was that no steps of this sort (which were common place) could be said to be safe unless a handrail was provided. There was no evidence that the steps posed any particular risk if they were ascended or descended with a normal degree of care. There had been a wrongful equation by the Judge of foreseeability of risk with the finding of duty to install a rail.

2. As to the Claimant’s argument that the fell steps within Regulation 5 (Maintenance of Equipment that had been Installed) was dismissed on the basis that since there had been no obligation under Regulation 12 (the Judge’s finding in that regard being unchallenged) to have installed a handrail, Regulation 5 did not apply.

Appeal allowed; Cross Appeal dismissed.

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