Mr Clifford Sayers, 66, made a claim for compensation against his former employer, Baroness Chelwood, after he claimed that he developed “induced noise deafness” because he had worked for her as a gardener. He commenced employment with Baroness Chelwood’s Uckfield home in 1981 and worked for 19 years as a gardener until his retirement in 2000. Mr Sayers’ duties at the Chelwoods’ home included mowing the lawn and tending to their garden. This involved the use of gardening tools, including lawnmowers, chainsaws and other power tools, and Mr Sayers claimed that it was the use of these – and the failure to provide adequate safety equipment for him – that had resulted in the injuries to his hearing. He therefore used personal injury solicitors to claim accident injury compensation in 2008, eight years after his employment had ended.
Employers have a statutory and common law duty to take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable injury to their works. Under the various statutes employers have duties to provide employees with the necessary equipment to allow them to carry out their responsibilities (the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992) and provide a safe place and system of work for their employees (the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992). Employers also have common law duties to prevent foreseeable harm to their employees and to provide a safe workplace for their employees.
The High Court rejected Mr Sayers’ claim as outside time – employees generally must submit a personal injury claim within three years of their suffering the injury (or having knowledge that they’d suffered the injury). Mr Sayers, however, left at least eight years between the end of his employment and submitting the claim. This was fatal to the prospects of success in his claim. The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s ruling.
Baroness Chelwood made the following comments about the case: “I am very happy as he did not deserve it. He had no claims to any kind of illness. This claim was very greedy. He had everything he needed to do that job including ear protectors. There was nothing stopping him putting cotton wool in his ears.”
Mr Sayers did not comment on the case. It is believed that there may now be a substantial claim for costs against him.