Lessons Learned – Common Sense Prevails

Common sense prevails in Court following a slip in a mining museum

Judge rejects claimant’s premise that because he slipped and sustained an injury on a visit to a heritage site, the site owner is to blame, and that it must have been due to “an act or omission by the defendant which it should reasonably have remedied”.

Clearwell Caves, a long standing member of the mutual, is a natural cave system which has been extensively mined for iron ore and operates now primarily as a mining museum, also providing caving activities. The caves are part of a Natural England designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.

This was a case brought by a retired publican who had slipped or stumbled and fallen whilst on a family visit to see the cave’s Christmas Fantasy Display. Although the claimant’s injury seemed slight at the time, it subsequently transpired that he had sustained a broken right ankle, from which he has made a more or less full recovery after 12 weeks in plaster.

The accident occurred in an underground passageway on a slight incline. Taking into account the damp conditions, the surface was covered by compacted ragstone gravel, recently replenished, providing a suitable non slip surface with drainage channels down each side. As is required by the Mines Inspectorate, there are recorded inspections of the mine’s walkways at least three times each day at no more than four hourly intervals.

The claimant’s expert, a Mr Petherick, argued that the mine, which is subject to Health and Safety at Mines Regulations 1993 and 1999, should also be subject to the Building Regulations and legislation covering buildings and constructed public places, such as sports stadiums and supermarkets.

The judge ruled that it was incorrect to equate a mine, with its inherent and unique character, with a supermarket or an office and that building regulations do not apply. He found that the ragstone gravel did indeed provide a suitable non-slip surface for the walkway in dry or wet conditions and that the mine’s recorded inspection and maintenance regime was systematic, regulations compliant and effective.


Common sense prevailed here in Court. Even in a case of little apparent merit, documented records evidencing risk assessment, good management and a regular inspection and maintenance regime are required to counter a claimant’s argument that because there’s an injury, the facility is to blame and compensation is due.