Postman hurt at work due to colleague's mistake – but who's liable?


A postman and Communication Workers Union (CWU) member who suffered a neck injury and subsequent headaches due to a co-worker's negligence has been awarded damages against his employer.

Accident at work

Working at the Royal Mail's Derby Mail Centre in July 2012 the postman was on the 2nd floor unloading goods from a service lift. However, he didn't realise the lift was being operated at the same time by another colleague.

Struck without warning

As he got out of the lift, the door suddenly struck him on the head, injuring his neck. He immediately reported the accident to his manager, who applied first aid.

Ongoing problems

The postman went to his GP and was diagnosed with whiplash due to the weight of the door hitting his head and neck. Shortly after the incident he complained of a headache and stiff neck.

We wrote to Royal Mail alleging that the accident was their fault as his employer, as explained by Simpson Millar LLP:

"In cases like this it's important to note that employers are responsible for acts of negligence by their employees" said the solicitor, who pursued an Employers' Liability Claim for the CWU member. "The key lies in the nature of the equipment our client was required to use and its safety shortcomings."

Employer was liable

Royal Mail had failed to provide the postman with a safe system of work, there was no safety mechanism/sensor or safe system of operating the equipment in place which would have prevented the lift door from closing on the postman.

"There should have been sensors, also, there were no buttons inside the lift to stop it descending, and there was no emergency telephone for the use of anyone stuck in the lift."

The claim concluded that Royal Mail was vicariously liable for the accident and carelessness of his co-worker who, given our client's proximity, should not have closed the lift door.

"In this instance, our client's colleague had pressed the lift button to close the lift, having heard the bell in another area summoning the lift," Simpson Millar said.

"The lift can only be operated once the doors have been shut. As the postman was exiting the lift its door closed on his head."

Claim settled… with Simpson Millar LLP's help

Fortunately Royal Mail settled the case quickly and our client was awarded compensation of £1,575.

"I was very happy with the service, being advised every step of the way," our delighted client said. "Knowing that you have the right help is very reassuring."

Top tips to take away:

  • If you're hurt at work and it wasn't your fault, you could pursue personal injury compensation, especially when the injury has had a lasting effect - like in this case study
  • Despite government changes there's still powerful protection for workers under Health and Safety legislation

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