A slippery slope: Royal Mail loses legal battle


Britain’s postal service has lost a 5-year legal battle brought on when dozens of mailmen were injured after delivering the post in slippery boots.

Royal Mail has been providing durable and slip-resistant footwear to all its postal workers for more than 20 years. But in 2007, it issued 'Magnum Boots' despite the fact that the footwear had already performed poorly in trials.

"The boots that were supplied to thousands of postal workers in 2007 had poor grip on metal surfaces and practically none in wet weather. For a postal worker in Britain that is completely unacceptable," said Helen Stanton from national law firm Simpson Millar.

Between 2007 and 2008, Simpson Millar received almost 100 calls from postal workers who had suffered an accident after the new boots were introduced; unsurprisingly since Royal Mail’s own tests had already indicated that there was a problem with the grip resistance.

Royal Mail paid for independent testing by the Health and Safety Executive and an independent footwear testing body – both of which confirmed the problems. At the trial it emerged that Royal Mail had even called an emergency meeting with the boot manufacturers to demand a re-design of the sole. Nevertheless it continued to issue them to postal workers nationwide.

One of those workers was 65-yeal old Patrick Bitton, a postman in Fareham, Hampshire known to his friends as Pat. When making a delivery of mail to a private home in rainy weather he slipped and fell on a metal manhole cover on the driveway of the house. A long-standing employee who rarely failed to deliver the mail, he became a victim of the poor design when he fell and fractured his left ankle.

Pat has now been awarded £3,600 in compensation by the court but only at the end of a costly and drawn-out legal battle.

"Postal workers walk upwards of 8 miles each day on a tight schedule to deliver the mail to Britain’s households and businesses. The least they can expect is to be provided with suitable footwear," said Helen who has spent the last 5 years seeking justice for Pat and his colleagues.

She added: "Despite the fact that Royal Mail’s own independent assessments showed that the footwear was dangerous, the company still denied liability and dragged these cases out for years. Only after a judge decided in the favour of its employees did Royal Mail agree to settle the remaining 14 cases. It is a positive outcome but the company could have saved itself a lot of time and money, not to mention the goodwill of its staff had it acknowledged its responsibility sooner."

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