01 July 2015
Confessions of an Office Assistant: Wet Floors at Work
It’s My Party and I’ll Clean if I Want to…
This week has been pretty good so far. I love a good party, plenty of food, a nice glass of wine and lots to gossip about. Also, something happened which gave me a great idea about how Patrick and I can help win the case for Mr Partridge, that nice architect chap who slipped on rain water in the lobby at his work.
My sister Carla had her in-laws over. Her mother-in-law is a right old bosspot. Remember the wedding? You'd have thought it was her who was getting married. She hasn't changed. I’d only just arrived and she was busy ordering everyone about.
She asked (well, told me!) to go into the kitchen to get the huge sherry trifle she had made. It was a bit late. Carla's youngest, Ryan, had been at it. Some of it was on him, some in him, and the rest all over the floor.
Trying not to giggle, I went into the dining room to explain. Do you know what she said? "That horrid little terror can clean it up himself!"
Before Carla and I had a chance to remind her that Ryan was only three-and-a-half-years-old, 'mother' was already bragging about her 3rd place in the quick step at her dance night and told us to sit down. Ryan was in the kitchen busy polishing off the trifle and making more mess, but she wouldn't listen to me when I told her that someone might slip on all the spilled trifle.
Rather than allowing me to make the kitchen floor safe, she told me to stop fussing because only an idiot would slip over. Can you guess what happened next? She got up to get the apple pie she had been saving for the local bakery contest and the next thing we heard was her doing a quick step and electric slide onto her backside. Ouch.
Ryan was giggling and we couldn't help it either. Luckily only her pride was hurt, but it could have been worse (like with Mr Partridge).
And do you know what she said next? She said it was my fault. My fault? I was about to give her both barrels but Roger, Carla's (lovely) father-in-law stepped in and told her that she'd only got herself to blame because she was warned about the mess and she should have allowed us to clean it up! I would have had some sympathy for her if she hadn't known about the trifle on the floor, but she had just ignored me when I mentioned it. Anyway, Roger stepped in and kept her quiet...for about 10 minutes.
So what has all this got to do with Mr Partridge?
Well, he called the office to talk to Patrick but Patrick was helping another client, so I took the call. He was in a bit of a state because his boss said that he only had himself to blame because they have a “reasonable system of cleaning” in place. He was worried. He broke his wrist really badly and won't be able to use his computer for at least a month.
In my work, you quickly learn that a slip at work can cause serious injuries that can have long-lasting effects.
Employers have a duty of care to ensure they protect their employees from the risk of slips, trips and falls, and they must be proactive in reducing the risks to avoid such accidents. It’s not difficult, but too often employers overlook this.
Systems should be in place to ensure spillages are cleaned up immediately. When floors are wet, appropriate signs and cordons should be used to warn people of the hazard.
If an employee slips at work, claims can be brought on the basis of the employer’s negligence or under the Occupier’s Liability Act. Employees can also rely upon the Workplace Regulations which underpin an employer’s duty of care to its employees and others, such as visitors to the workplace.
In order to comply with the law and reduce the risk of accidents at work, employers should have adequate inspection and maintenance systems in place. By regularly checking entrances and walkways and all areas where employees and visitors have access, the risk of someone slipping is greatly reduced.
Not everyone who falls will succeed in a claim. There are issues such as ‘reasonableness’ and ‘reasonable practicability’ that need to be looked at, and the courts recognise that employers cannot always have a mop and bucket handy at all times.
Speaking of which, I took the call and reassured Mr Partridge. I told him all about Carla's mother-in-law and he could see what I was getting at. His employer’s insurers have had to disclose copies of their accident book and correspondence to us and although they still deny they are to blame, there is a memo about the problems of rainwater dripping from the umbrella stand in the lobby.
I told Mr Partridge not to worry and he felt much better. I told him we have a strong case and he is likely to win. He said that his mother-in-law is much the same as my sister’s and, when he gets better, he'll always remember to clean up any mess as soon as he knows about it.
Today was another great day! I had the pleasure of telling Mr Partridge that the defendant has admitted fault and he is really chuffed. Patrick is too. He's talking about having a team lunch, but we won't be having any trifle!
Melisa Ozkizil is an Office Assistant in the Personal Injury team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
John Reeder is a Senior Personal Injury Lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
For a free consultation about a work accident compensation claim, call our No Win No Fee Personal Injury Lawyers 24 hours 7 days a week on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will get back to you.