Some of you will be familiar with Dr Who’s sworn enemy, the Daleks, who look like a cross between a washing basket and a tin can. The following is a guest post opportunity courtesy of the marketing team at a firm of no win no fee solicitors in Stockport.
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This week, I will be looking at a recent case that was heard in the Scots courts involving a Dalek of another kind. This “dalek” is an articulated stool that is used to reach objects at a height (see picture lower down the article), so named, as Lady Stacey remarked in Gilchrist v Asda Stores Ltd  CSOH 77, because
“of its shape which is reminiscent of the robot known as a dalek in the well-known television programme”.
The injured party (the pursuer) was supermarket worker Elizabeth Gilchrist.
She raised an action against her employer ASDA (the defenders) following an accident hanging up clothes at a Stockport store, where she fell off the stool and
“caught her ankle”.
The legal team for the pursuer’s main argument was that a risk assessment had not been properly carried out by ASDA. As stated in the written judgment,
“[the defenders] knew or ought to have known that manual handling at height will require movement which will increase the risk of injury. They knew or ought to have known that requiring employees to stand on a dalek platform to carry out the manual handling task of hanging clothes presented a risk of falling. They knew or ought to have known that the pursuer was only 5 feet tall, and would have to raise her arms above her and reach to hang clothing, which may cause her to lose her balance”.
The pursuer’s legal team of no win no fee solicitors used another piece of equipment as an example to demonstrate their point. This ASDA store in Stockport also used airport style steps in the grocery area, but unlike the dalek stool, these airport steps have a handrail.
It was therefore argued that a risk assessment was not properly carried out, as if it had been, the pursuer would have been provided with airport style steps as they would allow her to regain her footing if she fell.
Furthermore, Ms Gilchrist’s personal injury solicitors argued that there was no specific risk assessment for the task of hanging up clothes. Given this contrast in equipment, the main question for the court was the following:
“As a matter of law was the defender under a duty to provide airport style steps?”
Ultimately, Lady Stacey found in favour of ASDA. This was because the dalek stool had been used for many years, and was used for similar tasks within libraries (i.e. putting books on shelves at a height). Another argument that worked against the pursuer was that she was not actually engaged in hanging up clothes at the time of her accident – she fell after she had finished her task.
Her legal team of personal injury lawyers did not aver that the stool was unsafe, which may have worked in her favour even if she did fall after she hung the clothes up. Lady Stacey also found that ASDA had performed their risk assessment to the statutory standard.
This case shows how carefully you must document and prepare your case in order to be successful. The pursuer did admit that she had finished her task before the accident. Had her no win no fee solicitor decided to base their argument on the safety of the stool rather than comparing the stool to another piece of equipment, the case may have worked in her favour.
If you do have an accident at work, it’s important to be aware of any obligations upon you and complete any necessary training.
Should you fail to do so, in the event of an accident, the onus would be on you for not following regulations correctly rather than your employer.
This guest post was researched, compiled, edited, and published by the No Win No Fee Solicitors of Stockport. Many thanks for their valuable contribution, and I hope it is one of many that they will supply in the future. Previously they supplied a piece of advertorial which is an opportunity open to any other legal firms or personal injury solicitors. You just need to ask.
PS: Somewhat off topic, but when searching for supplementary video on this case (I always try to find something that I believe will enhance my blog posts) I stumbled across this hilarious video: