A Scottish Court has recently considered when employers should provide protective footwear to any staff who work outdoors.
The Personal Protection Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (the "Regulations") provide that an employer must assess the need to give staff personal protection equipment ("PPE") by completing a "sufficient and suitable" Risk Assessment. PPE should always be considered where this is an effective way of reducing identified risks.
In this case, a care worker who slipped and fell outside a patient's home in the icy winter of 2010 and suffered serious damage to her wrist was successful in her action against her employer, Cordia, for breaches of the Regulations.
The Court held that Cordia did not fully consider or offer guidance to staff on what would be "proper footwear" despite highlighting it as a potential issue within its own Risk Assessment. The Court believed that the employer should have considered offering snow shoes or spiked over shoes to its staff who were out and about in the winter weather. Significantly, this was something that other employers such as the Royal Mail were known to be considering.
In addition, Cordia were found not to have undertaken adequate checks on their employees or given proper and appropriate guidance to staff on what they should wear generally in adverse conditions.
The decision highlights that employers need to adequately consider all possible risks to their employees in carrying out their duties and ensure that there are control methods in place to reduce any risks identified to a minimum. This will include a consideration of whether PPE is appropriate.
With winter weather conditions deteriorating year on year in the UK, employers should revisit their Risk Assessments and Inclement Weather policies to ensure they are meeting their legal obligations.