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Buckfield v Royal Devon Exeter NHS Trust, Truro County Court, 17 March 2006

23 February 2006
The issues

Provision and Use of Work Equipment regs – Use of scissors to open boxes when alternative tool available – whether scissors suitable for opening boxes

The facts

On 24th December 2006 the Claimant, who was employed as a Ward Assistant on the neo natal unit sustained injury when opening a cardboard box with a pair of closed scissors. The boxes were sealed with tape of the common variety. The scissors were fairly ordinary and were relatively blunt when in the closed position. The Claimant would open around 2-3 boxes per day in this way. The Claimant was left handed but as the scissors were right handed she opted to take the scissors in her right hand and score across the top of the box from right to left. In doing so her evidence was that the scissors went through the box with greater ease than anticipated with the result that the scissors became embedded in her left wrist.

The Ward Manager had worked within the NHS for 37 years and took the view that opening boxes with scissors was a fairly common practice.

The Claimant’s own evidence was that she would open approximately 1,200 boxes in this way over the course a year. It followed that many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of boxes were being opened like this across the Trust.

Following the accident the Ward Manager purchased a set of box cutters for the department so as to avoid a repetition of the accident.

The Claimant’s case was brought under both the common law and the PUWER regulations and consisted of the following primary allegations:-

1. The Defendant failed to provide suitable work equipment
2. The Defendant failed to train the Claimant in how to safely open boxes
3. The Defendant failed to assess the risks involved in opening boxes using scissors

The decision

The scissors were broadly suitable for the purpose. Many thousands of boxes across the Trust were opened in this way without incident. There was a complete lack of previous accidents. There had been no perception of any risk by anyone prior to the accident. The accident occurred principally due to a lack of attention by the Claimant. There was no foreseeable risk of injury that made the scissors unsuitable.

There was no requirement to train the Claimant in the use of scissors or the opening of boxes. These were entirely matters of common sense.

Whilst it was agreed between the parties that there had been no pre-accident risk assessment the reason for that was because the possibility of something happening was so minimal that it was not necessary.

Claim dismissed.


For further information about this case please contact Mark Fowles (markfowles@veitchpenny.co.uk) or Brent McDonald (bmd@2templegardens.co.uk)

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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