The case of Reynolds v Strutt & Parker LLP (2011) is a tragic case in which an employee of Strutt & Parker (SP) sustained serious brain injuries in a cycling race organised by his employers as part of a work event.
Two partners from SP had organised an afternoon of events for employees at a country park. The final event was a cycling race. The partners and the company’s head of safety had met before the event and discussed the safety of using certain types of bicycles and decided that mountain bikes were not to be used.
On the day of the race, only one rider wore a helmet. Near the end of the race, Mr Reynolds’ bicycle collided with another.
Mr Reynolds brought a civil claim against SP alleging a breach of the common law duty owed by employers to employees and a breach of various duties under health and safety legislation.
The court heard from an expert who suggested that if Mr Reynolds had been wearing a helmet, it was unlikely that he would have sustained the injuries he did.
The court held that Mr Reynolds as not at the event in the course of his employment so there was no breach of statutory duty. However, the partners from SP had breached their common law duty of care. Neither partner had the skills or knowledge to carry out a risk assessment and they had missed the most obvious risk of collision. There was a failure to carry out a sufficient risk assessment and to seek the advice of the people operating the park which would have been the common sense thing to do in the circumstances. The court said that the risk of collision and the potential consequences were obvious and that if they had told Mr Reynolds to wear a helmet and he had not complied, then he should have been excluded from the race.
The court found that SP had been negligent in failing to tell riders about the need to wear helmets.
When looking at Mr Reynold’s actions, the court found that he had had a reckless disregard for his own safety and that he was aware that helmets were available.
The court found SP liable for the accident and Mr Reynold’s two thirds contributorily negligent, so SP will be liable for a third of Mr Reynold’s claim for damages. The amount of the award has yet to be determined
The short moral of this case…
is that employers must not take their eyes off the ball with regards to risk assessments and must seek advice when unsure of the risks of a certain activity or what measures to put in place to control identified risks.
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