Despite stringent health and safety rules, accidents at work remain a frequent occurrence and are a stark reminder of the need for risk assessments. In one case, a worker who tripped over a no entry sign, installed to deter employees from taking illicit smoking breaks, was awarded substantial damages.

In the early hours of the morning, before the sun came up, the man was making his way down a corridor in order to check a boiler. He forgot that the 'no unauthorised entry' sign had been slung on a chain across a flight of steps which lay in his path. He tripped over the chain and fell down the steps, suffering injuries.

Ruling on his compensation claim, the High Court found that the chain represented a tripping hazard but that there had been no risk assessment prior to its installation as a means of deterring smoking in undesignated areas. It was probable that all the lights in the area were not working, but he had not been provided with a torch.

The man's damages had been agreed at £35,000 and the Court ruled that the occupier of the industrial premises, where he had worked for 14 years, should pay 75 per cent of that sum. Having failed in its duty to ensure the safety of his workplace, his employer was ordered to pay the 25 per cent balance.

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