A home carer from Glasgow has won an important case at London’s Supreme Court which could help other injured workers in future health and safety cases.
Tracey Kennedy, 45, slipped on ice and injured her wrist while visiting a terminally ill client in Crookston in December 2010.
A judge later ruled that she was entitled to damages as her employer, home care company Cordia, had not supplied her with the correct footwear to cope with Scotland’s winter weather conditions.
That decision was later overturned on appeal, but the original judgement was upheld unanimously this week by five Supreme Court judges.
The Court heard how Ms Kennedy had gone out with another member of staff during severe weather, slipped in the client’s front garden and fell onto her back, injuring her wrist.
Ms Kennedy’s legal team pointed toward the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations Act 1992, insisting that Cordia had a duty to ensure that suitable equipment was provided to staff if they could not control the risk of slipping on ice.
Cordia argued that Ms Kennedy could have personally made the decision not to go out that night because conditions were too hazardous.
However, Supreme Court Judge Lord McEwan rejected Cordia’s claims, accepting evidence that Ms Kennedy was providing an essential service to a vulnerable elderly client who might otherwise have spent the night suffering in pain, without her medication.
The court found that a relatively cheap over-shoe attachment was issued by similar local authorities and employers in Scotland as standard uniform – an attachment which could have prevented Ms Kennedy’s accident.
Lord McEwan said that the health and safety of people working in dangerous conditions in Scotland should be paramount, noting that “everyone has to live and work through winters” and that “safety is to be levelled upwards of all else”.
The judges also found that Cordia was fully aware of the risks posed by ice, which had been identified in previous assessments in 2005 and 2010.