Woollins v British Celenese Ltd – Case Summary

Woollins v British Celenese Ltd

Court of Appeal

Citations: (1966) 1 KIR 438.


The claimant was a post office engineer. He became injured when removing cabling at the defendant’s factory after a piece of roofing he was standing on gave way. The defendant had put up a warning stating that the roofing was unsafe. However, the sign was in an obscure place and unlikely to be seen.

The claimant sued under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. In their defence, the defendant relied on the warning and s.2(3)(b) of the Act, which states that:

[A]n occupier may expect that a person, in the exercise of his calling, will appreciate and guard against any special risks ordinarily incident to it, so far as the occupier leaves him free to do so.

They argued that the risk to the claimant was one ordinarily incident to his calling.

  1. Was the warning sufficient to relieve the defendant of occupier’s liability?
  2. Did s.2(3)(b) apply to the facts of this case?

The Court of Appeal held in favour of the claimant. The warning showed that the defendant realised the danger posed by the roofing. By putting the notice in a place that people would not naturally see it, they were in breach of their duty of care. Meanwhile, s.2(3)(b) did not apply to the facts of the case because the risk of stepping on unstable roofing was an ordinary risk.

This Case is Authority For…

Section 2(3)(b) of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 only applies to special risks which are an incident of the particular work being done. For example, an electrician would be expected to guard against the risk of live wires. It does not apply to ordinary risks which are an incident of the premises rather than the job.