The recent case of Quantrell v TWA Logistics  has stressed that following health and safety guidelines is as important for the employee as it is for the employer.
The recognition of an employee’s right to claim for personal injury loss in the workplace has been a fairly recent legal development. The first appearance of an ‘accident at work’ claim did not happen until 1832 in the case of Priestley v Fowler  150 ER 1030 which was unsuccessful.
Arguably, it was not until the 1970’s when Health and Safety measures in the workplace became recognised in English law as a duty.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) provided basic guidelines as to employer obligations in ensuring a safe working environment such as providing safety training and equipment.
Still largely in operation to date, the HSWA has been amended over time to reflect current working practices. However, it is still clear in Sections 7(a-b) of the HSWA that an employee, like the employer, must also provide for their own safety and the safety of others around them.
Quantrell v TWA logistics  was a personal injury at work claim which was appealed by the claimant to the Court of Appeal.
It concerned a 30-year-old heavy goods vehicle driver, Mr Quantrell, who had suffered a serious leg injury when operating a forklift truck whilst he was working at TWA Logistics.
Mr Quantrell, the claimant in this case, was performing a manoeuvre at an excessive speed whilst not wearing a seatbelt. It was during this that he fell out from the vehicle which, whilst still in motion, ran over his leg.
The original case was brought by Mr Quantrell on the grounds that the injury had been caused by his employer’s negligence in regard to his health and safety.
How is negligence determined?
In order for the court to find that the employer has been negligent; firstly, it must be proved that the employer has breached their duty of care; for example by failing to provide reasonable safety training.
It must also be proved that it was more than 50 percent likely – known as ‘on the balance of probabilities’ – that the employer’s failings caused the injury.
County Court decision
The case was initial heard in the County Court, where the trial judge dismissed Mr Quantrell’s claim.
The judge had not been satisfied by Mr Quantrell’s account of the incident – highlighting various inconsistences with his account of events, in particular the speed at which the vehicle was operating at the time of the accident.
Mr Quantrell subsequently appealed the decision.
Court of Appeal
Following appeal, the case was heard by the Court of Appeal concluding on 22 April 2016.
In the Court of Appeal, Mr Quantrell argued that the Trial Judge had over-focused on his inconsistent account of the accident – that they had failed to consider his general case of negligence.
Mr Quantrell maintained that his employer had breached their duty of care due to the poor quality of training provided for the use of a forklift vehicle – in particular the absence of training for the inching pedal.
It was argued that this breach had caused the accident to occur.
Additionally, Mr Quantrell argued that, although he has been told during his training that he should wear a seatbelt whilst operating the vehicles, this requirement was not routinely enforced. It was contended that this in itself was a breach of duty.
At the time of the accident Mr Quantrell had not been wearing the seatbelt and – it had been argued as a result – that caused a greater extent of injury.
However, the Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Quantrell’s arguments and largely agreed with the trial judge’s opinion.
They explained that, on the balance of probabilities, it would be difficult to establish that it was the claimant’s lack of training regarding the inch peddle which caused the accident; and not some other issue such as the tipping of the truck.
It was also held that it was appropriate for the trial judge to consider the reliability of Mr Quantrell as a witness.
Furthermore, it was found that the trial judge had properly considered the ‘seatbelt issue’ in the case having found there was high observance to the safety precaution by the workforce and disciplinary action for those who failed to do so.
The Court of Appeal found it appropriate that the trial judge had ruled there was no breach of duty and also for considering that Mr Quantrell’s conduct could have contributed to the accident.
Personal injury in the workplace can cause many difficulties and stress for the individual concerned, and it is important that, where an employer has been negligent in their care, the employee can seek legal support.
However, Quantrell v TWA Logistics (2016) made some important points on how an employee can help protect their chances of a claim should the need arise. These include taking reasonable care of their own safety at work and following health and safety procedures set out by the employer.
Although Quantrell as a case was decided a few years ago now, the principles behind the decision are still being followed by the courts when considering accident at work claims.
More recently, in the case of Chisholm v D & R Hankins (Manea) Ltd  EWHC 3407 (QB), a claimant’s compensation award was reduced by 25% due to their failure to take reasonable care around high voltage overhead lines, despite his employer being found to be liable.
It is therefore clear that courts will still consider an employee’s conduct at work with regard to health and safety in personal injury claims.
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