This was an Appeal by Northumberland County Council, arising from the decision of His Honour Judge Moorhouse at Newcastle upon Tyne County Court on the 9th October 2002, allowing employee Dominic Harvey’s claim for damages arising out of an accident that occurred at work on the 9th June 1998.
Dominic Harvey was employed as a residential social worker at Kyloe House, Morpeth, which was run by Northumberland County Council. His claim was that whilst restraining an unruly child, he was caused to twist sharply causing injury to his right knee. He blamed his injury on inadequate training in restraint techniques.
The court heard that Northumberland County Council’s training policy had been formulated in 1992 and that no changes had been made since then (i.e. some six years). This, the Council had explained was because they had been awaiting guidance from the government. Northumberland County Council had apparently commissioned a review of training matters and a report had been produced – The ‘Gilbert report’ *. This report was produced in evidence and was relied upon by the Judge in his conclusion that issues surrounding training had been raised by staff members but not acted upon.
(1) The ‘Gilbert Report’ * dealt generally with restraint techniques rather than specifically making recommendations. However, it was self evident from the report that there were safer restraint techniques than those that were being used at the date of the incident.
* The ‘Gilbert Report’ was an internal document produced by Northumberland County Council and not a government backed research report.
(2) It was agreed by all that training was required in regard to restraint procedures but, training was put on hold pending official reports. There was no evidence of the Council’s management seeking to find out what other methods of training/techniques were available in that period.
(3) As the employer, Northumberland County Council had a common law obligation to take reasonable steps to ensure the workplace is safe. It could not put that obligation on hold pending advice from official departments. It was the responsibility of Northumberland County Council to ensure Dominic Harvey was safe at work and it failed to discharge that responsibility.
A decision on the size of the award that Northumberland County Council would have to pay to Mr Harvey was deferred pending reports.