The Court of Appeal recently handed down its judgment in the case of Casson v Hudson  EWCA Civ 125, a ‘workplace’ case that may have some far-reaching implications.
The claimant was a prisoner who, under a day release scheme, was carrying out general handyman / maintenance community work at a church hall. While doing some painting he fell from a ladder owned by the church and suffered injury. He decided to pursue a claim against the church on the basis that the ladder was work equipment. The fall had happened because he was leaning outwards on the ladder and it was not footed.
His claim failed and, based on the facts, it seemed destined to do so from the outset as he had been directly instructed not to do any painting and not to use the ladder. However, he appealed to the Court of Appeal on the basis that there was a breach of statutory duty under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), meaning in his view that the findings of the first judge could be challenged.
The Court of Appeal upheld the findings that the claimant had been instructed not to paint and not to use the ladder and the claim failed again. The court did make some useful points on the PUWER provisions: that the regulations impose a number of different duties as to the suitability, maintenance and inspection of work equipment, as well as the provision of information, instructions and training of employees / others covered by the regulations.
The PUWER regulations are primarily aimed at protecting employees in terms of work equipment provided to them. However, regulation 3 extends the application of the requirements to situations where work equipment is used under the control of a person or entity. It was already understood that this would apply where a self employed person is given work equipment and directed to do a task, but this case raised the question of whether that obligation extended beyond employees and the self employed.
While the ladder was owned by the church, the Court of Appeal determined that the church / community group had no control over the work carried out by the claimant – this was all directed by the prison governor and / or his community worker. On that basis the church group did not have control of the claimant or his use of the equipment and so PUWER did not apply.
Philippa Luscombe, partner in the personal injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP, comments: “This case demonstrates that for PUWER to apply outside an employer / employee relationship, there must be clear control over the use of the work equipment by the proposed defendant. Therefore, in situations where an individual could be said to be ‘working’ and suffers injury arising out of the use of a piece of equipment utilised in that work, where they are not an employee using work equipment, it will be important to look carefully at who provided the equipment, who directed its use and who controlled the work the claimant was carrying out. One cannot help but feel that the claimant was never going to get very far in this claim given the circumstances, but the case has provided some useful guidance for instances of ‘ad hoc’ workers suffering injury due to the use of equipment. It should be noted however that neither court addressed whether the ladder was in fact ‘work equipment’ on the basis that, as the ladder was in good condition and the claimant’s injuries were in fact caused by the ‘type’ of use, the issue was irrelevant.”