Was that cycle crash a case of negligence?

Chris Boardman, a former Olympic gold winning cyclist and the voice behind safe cycling in the UK, claims that the Olympic race organisers were negligent, following the major incident at the female cycling event. The Dutch cyclist, who was leading the race with no other cyclists in sight, entered the Vista Chinesa Descent, a sharp turn on the course at high speed. The back wheel slides, then her front wheel seemed to turn and stop, causing her to flip over the handle bars and hit the road. The resulting incident caused her to fracture three vertebrae and suffer concussion. She subsequently, ended up in intensive care but has tweeted she is recovering well.

Cycle crashes are quite common, but usually involve cyclists bumping into each other, tangling pedals or other poor judgements made by another cyclist. However, this incident involved no one else and is why there are further concerns being raised.

Chris Boardman spoke to the BBC and highlighted that the course was dangerous, “…and is angry about it…” He commented, “…we knew it was way past being technical, it was dangerous. The people who designed the course, said what safety features were needed … and left it…”

Does this show that the race organisers were negligent?

The source of the term negligence came from a case law decision in 1856 by Baron Alderson judging on the Blyth v Birmingham Waterworks Company. Blyth claimed compensation because the Waterworks had failed to lay a water pipe deep enough. It froze in the winter and a subsequent flood damaged Blyth’s house.

Baron Alderson said; “Negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man guided upon those considerations…” Thus failing to do something which a reasonable person would do, or doing something a reasonable person would not do (the act or omission).

So let’s look at the incident in Brazil.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) defended their decision following the criticism of the course safety, saying “…it was carefully designed (and)… tested…in training.”

Chris Boardman accused the Olympic organisers of designing a dangerous course but seemingly chose to ignore any of those sentiments. Apparently the UCI were aware of some issues of cyclist safety but chose not to address them, blatantly or not is unknown.

So whenever a civil claim occurs the employer always:

Owes the claimant (or employee/non-employees) a duty of care. The law on negligence says a claimant (employee/non-employees) must show:

The defendant (employer) is in breach of the duty. The claimant suffers an actionable loss (injury/damage/financial loss) as a result of the breach.

The UCI definitely owes a duty of care, just like you as an employer owe your staff and visitors at your workplace. So did the UCI fail in the breach owed??? Well they had been advised by experienced people that the course appeared unsafe, plus they tested the course, but they failed to act upon that advice. So if, as an employer you ignored your employee’s safety concerns, an accident and injury results, then yes you would have failed in your duty to provide a safe workplace and therefore you will be in breach of that duty.

The cyclist suffered an actionable loss with the injury, but was it as the result of an unsafe track (i.e. the result of the breach)? That will be the decision of the Olympic Committee and/or the courts if the cyclist decides to claim against the International Cycling Union. If this was a UK workplace accident, our law system and the Magistrates Courts would be the judges.

So as an employer, you need to look at and review your systems and processes, listen to the workers and decide if things need changing. Ask yourself these questions?

Have I completed a suitable range of risk assessments?

Have I benefited from a compliance safety audit of our business? Do we consult with our employees and ask questions related to our processes? Are our workers aware of how we manage safety properly? Is everyone aware of our policies?

If you answer No to any of these questions, you are potentially putting your workers at risk of an actionable loss and you as the employer at risk of a potential claim or worse, an enforcement visit that could lead to prosecution.

If you are in any doubt, contact us for a free consultation to review your workplace practices and keep you and your employees safe.

For more information visit www.qdosconsulting.co.uk