Cleaner Wins Damages After House of Commons Slip

Slipping accidents can happen anywhere – even in the 'Mother of Parliaments'. That point was made by a case in which a cleaner won thousands of pounds in damages after coming to grief on a greasy spillage in a House of Commons kitchen.

Roast lunches cooked for MPs following Prime Minister's Question Time had led to a build-up of grease in the kitchen's ovens. Whilst they were undergoing a self-cleaning process, the inadequately sealed doors of the ovens leaked fatty liquid which formed puddles on the tiled floor. The cleaner, who worked for an outside contractor, fell on one of the puddles, injuring his back and elbow.

Lawyers for the House of Commons resisted his claim on the basis that he could not have expected the kitchen's floors to be clean as it was his job to clean them. It was submitted that his employer, not the House of Commons, bore legal responsibility for ensuring his health and safety at work.

In upholding his claim, however, a judge found that leakages from the aging ovens were a regular and ongoing problem that management had failed to address. Responsibility for maintaining the ovens fell upon the House of Commons, which had failed in its duty to ensure the reasonable safety of the cleaner as a visitor to the premises. He was awarded £3,000 in damages and the House of Commons was ordered to pay almost £7,000 in legal costs.

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