Case: Ellis v. Bristol City Council (2007) Court of Appeal
Precedent: Suitability of Flooring
The appellant was employed part time as a care assistant at Gleeson House, Bristol, a home for the elderly and mentally infirm run by the defendant, the Bristol City Council. She had been so employed since 1993. Many of the residents of the home suffered from incontinence. The appellant was injured when she slipped in a pool of urine left by one of the residents on the main corridor of the ground floor of the home.
The appellant had pleaded her case under regulation 12 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and also common law negligence. Regulation 12 provides as follows:
"Condition of floors and traffic routes
(1) Every floor in a workplace and the surface of every traffic route in a workplace shall be of a construction such that the floor or surface of the traffic route is suitable for the purpose for which it is used.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), the requirements in that paragraph shall include requirements that -
(a) the floor, or surface of the traffic route, shall have no hole or slope, or be uneven or slippery so as, in each case, to expose any person to a risk to his health or safety; and
(b) every such floor shall have effective means of drainage where necessary.
(3) So far as is reasonably practicable, every floor in a workplace and the surface of every traffic route in a workplace shall be kept free from obstructions and from any article or substance which may cause a person to slip, trip or fall."
In the initial case, the judge found against the appellant on all issues of primary liability.
The Court of Appeal determined that the judge did not approach the issue of the application, or not, of regulation 12(1) on the correct basis, and that, on the facts as they appear, the problem of urination on the floor of the corridor was sufficiently regular and frequent that the resulting slipperiness should be regarded as due to the unsuitable construction of the floor, rather than merely involving the obligation to take reasonable steps to clear up the resulting wetness of the floor under regulation 12(3).
If a smooth floor was frequently and regularly slippery, because of a substance which lay upon it, albeit only temporarily, the surface of the floor might properly be said to be unsuitable, if the slipperiness was such as to give rise to a risk to the safety of those employees using it.