I slipped on spilt coffee in the office kitchen and twisted my ankle as I fell; however I was told by my employer that I cannot claim compensation for slipping on tea or coffee in an office. Is this correct?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

It may be possible to claim compensation for slipping on tea or coffee in an office; however in practice it is likely to be complicated. Office slip injury compensation is usually claimed for slips on spillages due to leaking equipment or from wet floors left after cleaning. Whether tea or coffee spilled on the floor in the office represented a hazard which could have been prevented or corrected by your employer within a reasonable period of time is difficult to determine without further information.

An employer must make sure that the office is safe at all times and that hazards are quickly identified and removed before they pose an unacceptably high accident risk to staff. An employer has a legal responsibility to make sure that spills are mopped up promptly, or should ensure that the work premises are monitored correctly and cleaned. Although the member of staff who was responsible for the spillage should have cleaned up, it is unlikely that any small spillage would remain on the floor for long enough for it to be considered as a hazard for which your employer could have taken action, or would be legally expected to correct under health and safety at work legislation.

This does not mean that it will not be possible to claim compensation for slipping on tea or coffee in an office, only that the specifics of your case would need to be known before it would be possible to say with any certainty whether or not you are eligible to claim compensation.

There may be instances when a claim for compensation for slipping on tea or coffee in an office would be more likely to succeed. If the cleanliness of the kitchen was poor and the floor was dirty and slippery, such as if staff routinely left the kitchen or canteen in a mess and no one cleaned up, this may give you grounds for claiming compensation for slipping on tea or coffee in an office. This would be a staff training issue which should have been addressed by your employer. Staff must be educated to make sure communal areas of the office are kept clean. If a cup of coffee had been dropped and left for someone else to clear up, it is conceivable that your employer could be responsible for failing to take action. This could be considered employer negligence and would be grounds for claiming compensation for slipping on tea or coffee in an office.

The recommended next steps you should take are to record the accident and injury in your employers ‘Accident Book’, and to contact a personal injury solicitor for legal advice and to explain the exact circumstances under which you slipped on spilled drinks in the office.