A HAMPSHIRE postman has won thousands of pounds in compensation – because of the “slippery” boots he was given by the Royal Mail.
Patrick Bitton from Fareham was on his rounds in rainy weather when he slipped and fractured his ankle in a fall on a metal manhole cover.
The 65-year-old was using boots, pictured, that had just been issued to mailmen nationwide in 2007.
But between that year and 2008, lawyers Simpson Millar say they received almost 100 calls from postal workers claiming to have suffered an accident since they were introduced.
Now, Mr Bitton has won his case after a five-year legal battle paving the way for claims from 14 others. A four-day trial was held at Winchester County Court in July and a judgment has only recently been made.
Mr Bitton said: “I remember that day very clearly. It was one of those drizzly mornings that we get so often here in the country. “As soon as I walked on a manhole cover I fell over and knew straight away something was wrong. A few weeks earlier I had a similar incident but figured it was probably just me. This time I was certain that something was wrong with the boots.
“I have worn safety boots for work my entire life and have never slipped before. With these boots on I might as well have been walking on oil. “It was the worst piece of safety equipment I had ever seen, and everyone knew about it. “As a postal worker my most important assets were my feet and my legs; it was Royal Mail’s responsibility to help me look after them. Instead they made me deliver the mail in poor quality footwear.”
Mr Bitton was never able to return to work and has now been awarded £3,600 in compensation.
Helen Stanton from Simpson Millar said Royal Mail paid for independent testing of their new boots by the Health and Safety Executive and an independent footwear testing body – both of which confirmed problems. She said that the Royal Mail had called an emergency meeting with the boot manufacturers to demand a re-design of the sole but continued to issue them to postal workers.
And she added: “Only after a judge decided in the favour of its employees did Royal Mail agree to settle the remaining 14 cases. It is a positive outcome but the company could have saved itself a lot of time and money, not to mention the goodwill of its staff, had it acknowledged its responsibility sooner.”
A Royal Mail spokesman said: “The safety of our employees is a top priority for Royal Mail. Royal Mail only procures safety wear from trusted and reputable suppliers. A range of boots and shoes are available for our people and these are regularly updated based on the latest designs available. As a result, the boots that were available five years ago are no longer used by our postmen and women.”