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6 Managerial L. 1 (1969)

handle is hein.journals/ijlm6 and id is 1 raw text is: GARNER v. JOHN THOMPSON (WOLVERHAMPTON) LTD.


Lord Donovan, Harman LJ. and Fenton Atkinson L.J.
November 27, 1968
Factory - Statutory duty - Onus of proof - Duty to keep place of work safe -
Welder's fall from ladder in factory - Ladder slipped - Welder sole witness at
trial - Whether ladder safe - Whether for employers to proof safe so far as is
reasonably practicable - Whetb: breach of dury established - Factories Act,
1961, (9 & 10 Eliz.II, c.34), s. 29(1).
The Factories Act, 1961, provides by section 29(1):
There shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, be provided and maintained
safe means of access to every place at which any person has at any time to work,
and every such place shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, be made and kept
safe for any person working there.
The plaintiff was employed by the defendants as an arc-welder. He was required
to weld a piece of steel sheet into the side of a steel tank at some height above
ground level, for which purpose he had to work from a ladder. The ladder had at
its feet rubber suckers and their function was to keep the ladder attached to the
place where it was resting. The plaintiff worked from the ladder for some hours
without mishap until a tea-break, after which he returned to the ladder and went up
it to resume work when it slipped and as a result he fell and sustained injuries. He
sued the defendants for damages in respect of his injuries relying on, inter alia,
breach of statutory duty. He was the sole witness at the trial. He called no evidence
to show that the rubber suckers were unsafe or unreliable. The defendants called no
evidence. The judge held that the defendants were in breach of section 29(1) of the
Act of 1961 since the ladder was a place of work and was prima facie unsafe be-
cause it had slipped, and that the defendants had not discharged the onus of proof
which shifted to them. He, accordingly, awarded the plaintiff £232. 18s. 7d.
On appeal by the defendants:
Held, dismissing the appeal, that the plaintiff had established by the fact that
the ladder had slipped that it was prima facie unsafe, and so the onus of proof
shifted to the defendants to show that it was as safe as it was reasonably practicable
to make it; and that since the defendants did not call any evidence they had failed to
discharge the onus of proof which lay upon them.

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