A postman who was sacked by Royal Mail after falling over twice at work because he wasn’t looking where he was going has lost an unfair dismissal claim.
Paul Duffy fractured his shoulder after tripping on a path and just three months later, he broke his knee after slipping on a sledge in a driveway while reading his mail.
The postman, who had worked for Royal Mail for nearly 20 years, alleged that he did not see the sledge as it was hidden under a blanket of snow, but the homeowner claimed it was perfectly visible.
The homeowner also told his bosses that they saw him reading his mail and claimed he was not watching where he was going before he fell, a Newcastle tribunal heard.
His bosses ruled he was ‘distracted because he was reading whilst walking’ in both incidents and sacked him for dishonesty and ‘disregard to health and safety’ in March.
Mr Duffy filed a claim of unfair dismissal but Employment Judge John Morris ruled the decision to sack him was fair and dismissed his claim.
Paul Duffy fractured his shoulder after tripping on a path and just three months later, he broke his knee after slipping on a sledge in a driveway while reading his mail (stock image)
The tribunal heard Mr Duffy was handed a two-year suspended dismissal – a form of final written warning – in 2019 after he submitted fraudulent overtime claims.
This meant any future misconduct could lead to his dismissal.
In October last year, Mr Duffy was working from a delivery office in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, when he entered the driveway of a property to which he was delivering mail.
He tripped on the edge of the pathway and fell, leading to him being placed on sick leave after he fractured his shoulder.
The tribunal heard he would carry out light work from the office but no action was taken against him following this incident.
But in January, Mr Duffy suffered another fall, telling his bosses that he had delivered mail to a property when he stood on a sledge as he left the house, which caused him to fall.
The injury report noted: ‘The conditions were icy as it had been snowing, the drive had small patches of compact snow on it although the paving below was clearly visible.
‘For whatever reason Mr Duffy has failed to see that sledge prior to walking down the drive.’
After having X-rays, Mr Duffy was told he had a broken knee and torn ligaments which required surgery.
The veteran postman was initially signed off work for four weeks but this was extended until the end of February due to a ‘stress-related problem’, the tribunal heard.
The homeowners told Royal Mail: ‘Mr Duffy handed over a parcel and turned to leave the property… As he turned to leave… Mr Duffy was looking at the bundle of mail as if to see where he was going next.
‘As he left the doorstep he took two steps and stood on a sledge which had been left on the drive… Mr Duffy stood on the sledge and slipped falling heavily…’
The homeowners said the sledge wasn’t covered in snow, as Mr Duffy claimed, as ‘it hadn’t been out all night and had in fact just been put out from inside the house an hour earlier than when the incident occurred’.
His bosses ruled he was ‘distracted because he was reading whilst walking’ and sacked him. Mr Duffy filed a claim of unfair dismissal but a judge disregarded his claim (stock image)
The ‘root cause’ of the incident was recorded as ‘likelihood is Mr Duffy was reading mail whilst walking and not paying attention’.
In a fact-finding meeting in January, Mr Duffy said: ‘I turned to leave and stood down from the step, took a couple of steps between the parked cars and I stood on a patch of snow.’
He said it was only after he fell that he realised he had ‘stood on a patch of snow and the sledge was underneath the snow… There was snow all over’.
The case was passed to Tom Carver, delivery office manager, for a formal conduct meeting in February ‘to discuss discrepancies within the accident investigation’.
The tribunal heard that the conduct to be discussed was said to be potential dishonesty and potential ‘deliberate disregard to health and safety’.
Mr Duffy said at this meeting: ‘I was looking straight ahead at where I was going.
‘I stated that I stood on a patch of snow. I don’t know if the sledge was fully covered in snow. I don’t know if the sledge was fully covered or not.’
Mr Carver concluded Mr Duffy ‘knew there were patches of snow on the drive and should have recognised the danger’ and added there wouldn’t have been enough snowfall for the sledge to be covered.
He said: ‘I believe Mr Duffy decided to claim that the sledge was under snow in a way to hide that again he was to blame for his own accident…
‘It was clear that in both incidents [Mr Duffy] was distracted because he was reading whilst walking.
‘He had failed to identify the sledge, which was a deliberate disregard to health and safety.’
The claim of unfair dismissal was unsuccessful.