How can an employer be liable when a worker falls over pulling a trolley?
The answer is, when lots of small risks converge into a "perfect storm" and an everyday task becomes an accident waiting to happen.
In a real, recent case study, a worker pulled a loaded trolley across a concrete floor. She caught her foot under the crossbar of the trolley, stumbled and fell, breaking her hip.
At first glance, one would be tempted to assert that an employer is not required to warn a worker to be careful when pulling a trolley, but each component of the task needs to be analysed:
Using the trolley on the concrete floor and across the grate was a common task.
No instruction was given to push the trolley rather than pull it.
Had the worker been instructed to only push the trolley instead of pull it, the sudden force released when crossing the grate would have propelled the trolley away from the worker rather than towards her. The trolley would not have struck her and she would not have lost balance and fallen.
Providing that instruction, explaining its importance and enforcing it would have been a simple and inexpensive way of avoiding the convergence of risks which resulted in a serious injury.
This case study highlights the need for risk assessment of seemingly everyday and innocuous tasks to identify and reduce the chance of unexpected incidents.
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