Police training motorcycle accident – using the standard equipment is not good enough to comply
Posted by Jeremy Horton on 6th July 2012
Many people still labour under the illusion that with protective equipment it’s enough for an employer to supply the industry standard equipment. In Blair v Sussex Police the Court of Appeal recently confirmed this is not good enough to comply with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (PPER) 1992. In this case a police officer was taking part in an off-road motorcycle session as part of his police advanced motorcycle training. He was wearing standard issue police motorcycle boots. He had a motorcycle accident when he lost control, injuring his lower leg. He instructed solicitors and claimed compensation for the injury suffered in this motorcycle accident. He argued the standard police motorcycle boots he was given were not “suitable” personal protective equipment to protect him from motorcycle accidents, as required by the PPER, and for these motorcycle training exercises he should have been provided with better motorcycle boots, being motorcross boots. These, he argued, could have prevented the injuries he suffered in the motorcycle accident.
His claim for compensation was dismissed by the judge. He considered that given the foreseeable risk from the motorcycle training and the protection already provided by the standard issue police motorcycle boots, there was no need for the police to provide the greater protection of motorcross boots. Therefore there was no breach of the regulations.
On appeal the Court of Appeal unanimously held the judge was wrong and awarded the police officer compensation for the injuries from his motorcycle accident. They found the trial judge had failed to analyse the claim in the way the regulations required.
First, you must identify the risk of injury to which the employee was exposed and which you are trying to protect against – in this case injuries from motorcycle accidents, specifically from falling off the motorcycle. Second, you must ask if the equipment provided was, so far as practicable, effective to adequately prevent or control that risk. Only if that equipment was effective to prevent or control the risk or if it was not practicable to do so did you need to consider other questions like whether the equipment was “appropriate” or the “ergonomic requirements”. The judge had failed to ask himself this crucial question of whether the equipment effectively controlled or prevented the risk of injury from a motorcycle accident. Instead he was distracted by other issues.
The Court of Appeal was in no doubt that the motorcycle boots supplied were not effective to prevent significant injury from falling off a motorcycle in a motorcycle accident. It could be a defence to show it was simply not practicable to provide better protective equipment for motorcycle accidents, but it was for police as the employer to plead and prove that defence. They had failed to do this. There was some mention in evidence of the difficulty of policemen walking about in motorcross boots rather than standard motorcycle boots, but this did not prove it was impracticable to wear such motorcycle boots. On the face of it during the police motorcycle training there was little need to walk around in motorcycle boots as the training was almost entirely confined to handling motorcycles. The defendant had therefore not proved that for the purposes of the training it was impracticable to prevent significant injury from motorcycle accidents by providing motorcross boots, which afforded greater protection from motorcycle accidents than their standard issue motorcycle boots.
The Court of Appeal accepted that the police may not have been negligent. But it didn’t matter whether it was reasonably foreseeable the police officer might be injured in a motorcycle accident due to wearing standard motorcycle boots rather than motorcross boots. That was irrelevant. Equally irrelevant was whether it was “sensible” to provide motorcross boots to police officers in training who would be unlikely to wear them in the course of their everyday duties.
Generally defendants including employers do not have to compensate for injuries unless they have been guilty of negligence. However there are certain situations where statute places stricter obligations on employers. This includes situations where there is a recognised risk of injury from work which can be prevented or reduced by personal protective equipment. This might be gloves to protect a binmen from cutting his hands on glass or needles (see e.g.Threlfall vs Hull City Council 2010) or face mask/goggles to protect a welder from molten metal flying into his eyes. In such cases if it is practicable to provide better personal protection, which would have prevented injury, the employer must provide it. If they fail to do so, they will be liable to compensate their employee for any resulting injury.
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident or been injured at work due to a failure to provide suitable protective equipment, we’re very experienced in successfully bringing claims for compensation in such cases, on a no win no fee basis. Contact us for free advice.