A POSTMAN has won a five-year legal battle with Royal Mail following an accident that forced him to give up work.
Patrick Bitton, from Fareham, slipped and fractured his ankle when wearing boots that Royal Mail had issued to its postmen, despite warnings the footwear had performed poorly in trials.
The Magnum boots were first issued to staff in 2007.
During his round in 2007, Mr Bitton, now 65, slipped on a metal manhole cover and fell, fracturing his left ankle.
Royal Mail paid for independent testing by the Health & Safety Executive and an independent footwear testing body – both of which confirmed problems with the boots’ grip.
At the four-day trial at Winchester County Court it emerged that Royal Mail had even called an emergency meeting with the boot manufacturers to demand a redesign of the sole.
Mr Bitton said: ‘I remember that day very clearly. It was one of those drizzly mornings. As soon as I walked on the 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.’
Mr Bitton was never able to return to work and has now been awarded £3,600 in compensation. A further 14 postmen around the UK are waiting on settlements.
He added: ‘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.
‘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.’
Helen Stanton of Simpson Millar, the law firm representing the postmen, said: ‘Despite the fact that Royal Mail’s own independent assessments showed that the footwear was dangerous, the company still denied liability and dragged these cases out for years.’
Royal Mail spokesman Adrian Booth said safety is a ‘top priority’ and said: ‘Royal Mail only procures safety wear from trusted and reputable suppliers.’
He added that the boots are no longer in use.