A school janitor from Inverclyde who lost his job after he suffered leg and back injuries when he slipped on a frozen surface at work has been awarded £30,000 in damages.

Stephen McKeown, 61, was covering for a colleague at another school when the accident happened. When he arrived at the school in the morning, it was very cold and there was ice on the paths, which he set about salting.

Later on, two pupils drew his attention to the fact that there was a condom at the top of a fire escape, so he climbed up to dispose of it. As he did so, he slipped on the icy steps and fell, injuring his back and leg.

Mr McKeown’s injuries meant that he was unable to return to work and his contract was terminated by Inverclyde Council.

He brought a claim against his former employer, arguing that the Council should have had a procedure in place for salting the school grounds in freezing temperatures.

In court, the judge found that although the school did have a written policy in place, this had never been put into action. He also noted that the school had failed to make Mr McKeown aware of equipment that was available which would have made his work safer. He was awarded £30,000 in compensation.

Employers are not expected to eliminate all transient risks, but they should identify any areas of the workplace premises that are likely to be affected in freezing conditions and assess the risks to employees and to members of the public. They should have in place a procedure to prevent ice from forming whenever freezing temperatures are forecast and make sure that this is followed when conditions dictate, taking care to provide suitable footwear, clothing and equipment to the maintenance staff carrying out the work.


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