A worker on a North Sea oil platform who fell from a bunk bed has won a six-figure sum in compensation. Robert Robb, 41, was working for the oil service company Salamis as a scaffolder when the accident occurred. Before starting work on the night shift he awoke and began to climb down the ladder from the top bunk. Unfortunately, the ladder onto which he stepped was removable and had not been properly secured after its last use. Mr Robb badly injured his legs and lower back when he fell to the floor.
Mr Robb’s first claims were rejected by the courts. They found that the failure of one of Mr Robb’s colleagues to secure the removable ladder back in place was not ‘reasonably foreseeable’ by his employers and so there was no breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
However, on appeal to the House of Lords it was found that employers should take into account the number of times equipment is likely to be used as well as the potential for careless use. The employers’ obligations under the Regulations were triggered because it was reasonably foreseeable that an employee might injure himself when using a ladder which had become dislodged and might fall because it had not been replaced properly. The removable ladder was not fit for the purpose for which it was provided. Indeed, after the accident, the company took action to fix the bunk bed ladders in place.
Whilst Mr Robb was judged to be 50 per cent liable for the accident, he was nevertheless awarded a six-figure sum in compensation. Following the accident, he has not been able to return to offshore work.
Says, “Whether or not a risk is reasonably foreseeable can be difficult to determine. When carrying out risk assessments employers should always consider how and when accidents might happen, keep evidence that these questions have been addressed and provide appropriate training on how to avoid potential risks. The assessments should take into account the likely effects of human behaviour.”