Friday May 29, 2020
For the road ahead

Success in Catwalk Case


On 22 November 2006, URTU Member, Phillip Stewart, was out driving a DAF 85 for his employer NYK Logistics (UK) Limited.

Just after 11pm, he had to disconnect the ‘suzies' at the rear of his cab.
As he turned to hang the last ‘suzie' on the air deflector bracket, he lost his balance and stepped back to place his foot on top of the diesel tank. There was no catwalk covering the diesel tank and no anti-slip surface.

His foot came into contact with the edge of the fuel tank, slipped off and went down the gap between the front of the fuel tank and the rear edge of the catwalk.

This caused him to completely lose his balance and his leg fell into the gap at an extremely awkward angle, sustaining a back injury.

Phillip contacted URTU. On his behalf, a claim was submitted making a number of allegations. The most important allegation being that there was negligence by the Company and a breach of the Work at Height Regulations of 2005. The Insurers denied liability.

Solicitors, acting on behalf of the Union, instructed an engineer to conduct a thorough investigation. He took the view that it would have been easily practicable to have extended the catwalk so as to cover the gap. He also calculated that the cost of doing so would have been about £200 per vehicle.
The cost of a full tank of diesel is about £400, which puts it into perspective.
The litigation proceeded and the matter came before the Northampton County Court on 24 February of this year.
The defendants had their own consultant engineer. One of the main thrusts of the defence was that this was a standard DAF 85, as designed by the manufacturers, and that there must be thousands of these vehicles with a similar catwalk setup all over Europe.
URTU trustee, Barry Marks, gave evidence that he had made complaints about the inadequacy of the catwalks to management, prior to Phillip Stewart's accident. Another driver, Antony Howson, also gave evidence that he had an almost identical accident in very similar circumstances some three months after Phillip Stewart's accident.
The Union are pleased to report that the Judge took the view that it would have been reasonably practicable for the defendants to have arranged for the catwalk on the DAF 85 to be extended slightly so as to eliminate the gap and make the catwalk just that little bit wider and larger to provide a safer working platform. The claim succeeded in full with no deduction for any contributory negligence.

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