When having a laugh at work turns dangerous

If you are injured at work and either your work colleague or employer are responsible for the injuries because they failed to take reasonable steps for your safety, you could reasonably expect to recover compensation.

But, Vicki Wright, expert personal injury lawyer, asks the question, “What happens when you are injured at work, when your work mate was ‘having a laugh’”? Vicki explains, “In these instances, we need to consider whether the accident occurred ‘in the course of employment.”

A recent Court of Appeal case has helped to provide some guidance on this issue.

In this case, the employees were allowed to use paint thinners at work. One of the employees sprayed a highly flammable paint thinner onto his workmate’s overalls. He then lit a cigarette whilst his workmate was close by, causing his overalls to catch fire which resulted in serious injuries.

The victim of this ‘laugh at work’ brought a claim against his employer on the grounds that his employers had responsibility for the employee’s actions.

The claim failed and so the injured man appealed to the Court of Appeal.

What was significant in this case was that the injured man was not alleging that his employers were negligent. In fact, the man’s employers had provided clear guidelines as to when and how paint thinners were used. This of course did not cover the spraying of thinners on a work colleague’s overalls.

The Court’s approach was to consider whether the incident was ‘sufficiently related to conduct authorised by the employer’ so as to find the employer responsible.

Consideration was given to various issues including whether the employee was abusing his position; whether there were any bad feelings between the two employees; or whether the claimant was vulnerable and prone to bullying.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and held that the victim’s injuries were caused by ‘frolicsome but reckless conduct’ of the employee which had not occurred ‘in the course of his employment’.

Vicki comments, “It is a sobering thought that a person may be injured at work and suffer life changing injuries, through no fault of their own, and will not receive any financial assistance for the future.”

The success or otherwise, of a personal injury case very much depends upon the exact events.

Therefore, if you have been injured at work and it was not your fault, we still advise that you should always consider seeking legal advice.

Vicki Wright can provide legal advice and representation on a No Win No Fee basis. Our initial consultation is free of charge too, so you have nothing to lose in contacting us on 02392 483322 or fill in the enquiry form and we will call you.